. 24/7 Space News .
The PI's Perspective: No Sleeping Back on Earth!
by Allan Stern PI New Horizons
Boulder CO (SPX) May 02, 2017

Our pathway to MU69: This diagram depicts our path across 5 billion miles of space to reach Pluto and then fly by MU69 on the first day of 2019. The position of Pluto is not where it was when we flew past in 2015, but where it will be on MU69 flyby day, a billion miles sunward of MU69. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Three weeks ago we put our New Horizons spacecraft into hibernation mode, the first time we'd done that since late 2014, before the Pluto flyby. By coincidence, that same day - April 7-was also the exact halfway mark on the calendar between our Pluto and Kuiper Belt object (KBO) flybys!

The hibernation period we're in will last through mid-September. Every Monday between now and then, the spacecraft will check in with a health report, in which it sends one of seven possible "beacon tones" ranging from what we call "green" (meaning all's well) to various shades of "red" (which mean something is amiss). On the way to Pluto we hibernated for a total of about 250 weeks during 2007-2014, and only saw a handful of red beacons over all those weeks. And so far in this hibernation, on all three Mondays, New Horizons has sent green beacons.

We've used spacecraft hibernation a lot since 2008. This mode turns off most onboard systems, but leaves the radios, main computer, power distribution and thermal control systems active.

Our three space environment monitoring scientific instruments-SWAP, PEPSSI and SDC - also continue to operate. By turning off other electronics (like those for guidance and propulsion, and all backup systems) we save on time and, therefore, wear and tear on many spacecraft components, prolonging their life.

The other big advantage of hibernation is that our mission and science operations teams get a break from babysitting the bird and can concentrate on other things-in this case, detailed planning for that KBO flyby coming on Jan. 1, 2019. So while our spacecraft may be dozing, our team sure isn't-they are as busy as can be with the many hundreds of flyby planning details that have to be completed this year, so we can finish testing the plan early next year during another hibernation. After all, flyby operations begin in July 2018, which is less than 15 months away!

Before we went into hibernation mode earlier this month, New Horizons finished downlinking all the data it took on distant KBOs in January. It also sent back the data we collected from January through March on Kuiper Belt dust distribution and the charged-particle radiation environment a half-billion miles past Pluto. Our science team is now analyzing these data, and we're already finding some interesting results - including a wide range of dwarf planet surface properties. More on that in another PI Perspective...

Meanwhile, as New Horizons hibernates, the three scientific instruments I mentioned earlier will gather more data on the radiation and dust environment of the Kuiper Belt, something we can do much better than the Voyagers did in the 1990s.

The reason why we can do so much better is simply that we have the first detector ever to fly in the Kuiper Belt and our radiation instruments were built in the 2000s, and are therefore highly advanced compared to their cousins on the venerable Voyagers that were built in the 1970s.

In addition to planning the command sequences that will choreograph all seven of our scientific instruments and the relevant spacecraft operations during our KBO flyby, there are some other important, mission related events this summer:

+ Beginning May 1 and continuing across the summer, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope will take images of our flyby KBO against star fields. We'll use these images to refine our knowledge of the target's orbit so we can assess the need for any engine burns - course corrections - as we home in. The next such burn opportunity is in early December.

+ In June, our science team will hold a major workshop to evaluate the trades (pros and cons) involved in choosing the best altitude for the flyby. Our goal is to get the best science with the highest probability of mission success, and a lot of factors are involved.

Choosing that distance is more complex than just "go as close as we can," since some objectives are better served with the spacecraft farther out, or at a more leisurely pace a more distant flyby that can fit more observations in while we're very close to the target. The ultimate flyby distance will be somewhere between about 3,000 and 20,000 kilometers (1,875 to 12,500 miles). We'll let you know later this summer what altitude came out on top.

+ On June 3, and then again on July 10 and 17, our flyby KBO-called 2014 MU69-will occult (block the light) from a different star on each date. No such "stellar occultation" of MU69 has ever been observed, so we're pretty excited. If we're successful in deploying telescopes to the occultation paths in South America and Africa and getting the goods, we will learn about MU69's size, if it has rings or other hazardous debris in orbit around it, and maybe even something about its shape. All of that will help feed our flyby planning effort.

+ NASA's Hubble Space Telescope will be pressed into service for us again in June and July - this time to measure how fast MU69 rotates and how strongly its brightness varies as it turns on its axis. Because MU69 is so faint, not even the world's largest groundbased telescopes can make this measurement. But Hubble can, and we'll use this information to better plan the exact timing and other details of the close flyby activities on Jan. 1, 2019.

What I've just summarized, along with more Pluto science analysis of the Pluto system datasets we collected and just finished transmitting to the ground last October, will fill the next few months for the New Horizons project team. (In fact, two-dozen new Pluto system research papers are being published in the May 1 issue of the planetary science journal Icarus.)

One last thing I want to tell you is something I get asked a lot about. Yes, we're going to give 2014 MU69 a real name, rather than just the "license plate" designator it has now. The details of how we'll name it are still being worked out, but NASA announced a few weeks back that it will involve a public naming contest, as we requested. Look for more information on that in the fall.

For news in the meantime, stay tuned to our websites and our social media channels. I'll write again in the summer.

Until then, I hope you'll keep on exploring-just as we do!

ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Apr 13, 2017
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have revealed extraordinary details about a recently discovered far-flung member of our solar system, the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee. At about three times the current distance of Pluto from the Sun, DeeDee is the second most distant known trans-Neptunian object (TNO) with a confirmed ... read more

Related Links
New Horizons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

12 Scientist-Astronaut Candidates Graduate at Embry-Riddle Through Project PoSSUM

Elon Musk teases future plans at TED

Students Taste Sweet Smell of Success in Culinary Challenge

Honeywell And Paragon To Create Life Support Technology For Future NASA Space Missions

SpaceX makes first US military launch, then lands rocket again

Strike-delayed European rocket launch to go ahead

India to launch GSAT-9 communication satellite on May 5: ISRO

SpaceX launches classified payload for NRO; 1st Stage returns to LZ-1

Japan aims to uncover how moons of Mars formed

Several drives put opportunity closer to 'Perseverance Valley'

Is Anything Tough Enough to Survive on Mars

How Old are Martian Gullies

Reach for the Stars: China Plans to Ramp Up Space Flight Activity

China to conduct several manned space flights around 2020

China's cargo spacecraft completes in-orbit refueling

China courts international coalition set up to promote space cooperation

How Outsourcing Your Satellite Related Services Saves You Time and Money

ViaSat-2 Satellite to Launch on June 1

ESA boosting its Argentine link with deep space

Arianespace, Intelsat and SKY Perfect JSAT sign a new Launch Services Agreement, for Horizons 3e

Why space dust emits radio waves upon crashing into a spacecraft

Ground Control Satellite Dish Arrives at University of Leicester

Raytheon receives $327M radar contract for U.S. Navy

SES Offers Panoramic Glimpse into the Future of TV with Live Virtual Reality Demo

SOFIA Confirms Nearby Planetary System Is Similar to Our Own

Nearby Star Confirmed as Good Model of Our Early Solar System

Next Breakthroughs in Exoplanet Discovery

Research Center A Hub For Origins of Life Studies

The PI's Perspective: No Sleeping Back on Earth!

ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system

Nap Time for New Horizons

Hubble spots auroras on Uranus

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.