New Horizons Healthy, Outbound From Pluto

New Horizons spacecraft (Credit: JHUAPL/SwRI)
New Horizons spacecraft (Credit: JHUAPL/SwRI)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has survived its flyby of Pluto. All systems were reported as nominal and controllers have confirmed the spacecraft recorded data today during its close encounter with Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

New Horizons sent signals back to controllers in Maryland some 13 hours after its closest approach to Pluto. The spacecraft was out of touch as it performed a sophisticated set of measurements and observations with its seven scientific instruments.

It will take controllers 16 months to download all the data recording during the flyby. New Horizons is headed for the Kuiper belt, where it will conduct a flyby of an object there.

Officials say the spacecraft has enough fuel on board to last another 20 years should New Horizons remain healthy.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The American planetary science engineering community has really matured over the past 30 years. Look at the Voyager like longevity of so many of our programs now. The Mars orbiters, the landers, Cassini, New Horizons. The Europeans did a great job with Rosetta too. I really hope we start using our new found proficiency in using high Isp ion thrusters combined with our abilities to conduct long term and far reaching missions to do some amazingly cool explorations. If we just had a set of 100 kw class nuclear power reactors that could run for decades, we’d have it made. Great job today, this is one of those things Americans will be remembered through history for. Great job to everyone involved, and I hope you all take as much joy in the images to come over the next 18 months as I will.

  • Snofru Chufu

    A question: Why does (to hell) it take 18 months to down load NH computer data storage to Earth? What is “wrong” here?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Distance and power limitations which limit the ability of the radio to
    put power into higher frequencies that allow for building shorter pulses
    with sharper edges. Contributing to this is also the size of the dish
    antenna. Read about the malfunction of the Galileo Jupiter probe’s mesh
    dish antenna to find out why they probably did not use an umbrella mesh
    dish on New Horizons. The solution would have been a bigger rocket to
    allow for more RTG power and a bigger dish on the same trajectory.
    Actually come to think of it, it might have been cost, because they
    probably could have tuned their trajectory at Jupiter to make up for a
    slightly slower transfer to Jupiter. But I think that’s the jist of it.

  • DavidR2015

    They can only achieve bandwidth of around 1.5kb/s on the link to New Horizons.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Thank you for detailed response.

  • Saturn13

    The old flybys were better. This makes me want to try to get my VCR tapes to work. I taped all of the encounters. My tapes get dirty and I do not have a working VCR. I wish I had recorded them over to DVD.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Pluto-fans: Earth moons weighs nearly 6-times as much as Pluto does! And Jupiters’s moon Ganymede 12-times as much!