The teams in charge of the interplanetary satellite New Horizons are burning the midnight oil in an attempt to correct the spacecraft’s trajectory and flight time. The ETA for these corrections was June 14th, so hopefully everything turns out okay when it reaches Pluto.
The director of space navigation and flight dynamics for KinetX Aerospace, Dr. Bobby Williams said this series of course corrections was just an early part of three advanced planned activities.
WHAT WILL NEW HORIZONS DO WITH PLUTO?
Every day, NASA releases images of Pluto, but the upcoming flyby means that New Horizons’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera will finally be able to photograph the closest images ever taken of Pluto. This will be at a distance of approximately 7,750 miles from Pluto’s frigid crust. As such, Williams explained, these will be the most clear and focused images of Pluto ever, and things are only going to get better.
BUT WE DIDN’T COME HERE JUST FOR THE TOUR
New Horizons will also assist scientists hoping to estimate the mass of Pluto and its moons, a subject of long-standing curiosity among scientists. The only spacecraft that have been farther away from Earth are the twin probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, launched in the 1970s to study the outer-planets and the edges of our solar system. One passed by Jupiter and Saturn, only to slingshot up out of our solar system in a vertical vector, while the other followed its curve out, passing by Uranus and Neptune before wandering out into that massive abyss. The two are still transmitting data by radio.
New Horizon’s mission upon arrival is to investigate the unknown surface of Pluto, supplying more data with which to hopefully quell the decades-long debate about the categorical status of the little planet (many scientists believe Pluto to be too small, and with too little mass to qualify as a planet).
WHAT CAN WE LOOK AT NOW
We have been informed that the newest photos reveal a bright spot on Pluto’s polar cap. The meaning of this luminescence is still under investigation. Hopefully, the Plutonians are not alerted to New Horizons’ presence.