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The New Horizons spacecraft by NASA finally phones home after surviving its encounter with Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft by NASA finally phones home after surviving its encounter with Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft re-established contact with earth successfully. According to NASA, this is a proof of the mission that the spacecraft reached Pluto, the dwarf planet- http://www.theguardian.com/science/live/2015/jul/15/pluto-flyby-nasa-signal-new-horizons-probe-live (follow the link for more information). The contact was re-established after a communications blackout when the probe completed the first Pluto’s flyby of humankind.

The mission managers were fully packed in the “mission control” center of the New Horizons waiting anxiously for communication from the spacecraft. When the craft finally made contact, they all applauded with joy.

Over 12 hours had passed since the spacecraft lost contact with earth. However, it was collecting data of Pluto and the five moons that are found there. Although the communications blackout was within the plan, scientists were on the edge because of the outage. Pluto’s flyby was a very dangerous part of the mission. The scientists feared that the stray dust within Pluto system might collide with the spacecraft- http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/14/us/nasa-new-horizons-pluto-flyby/index.html (follow the link for more information).

Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator joined Alice Bowman, the mission manager in congratulating the team at the operations center. According to Bowman, the probe is Pluto “outbound” and healthy. NASA opened the briefing for “phone home” by its flyby with Stephen Hawking congratulatory message.

According to NASA, the piano-size spacecraft was unmanned and it went by Pluto at exactly 7:49 A.M ET.  It was traveling at almost 31,000 mph almost 7.750 miles above the surface of Pluto.

Bowman was filled with joy during the briefing. However, this is just the beginning of the fun. According to the principal investigator of the mission, Alan Stern, the New Horizons ought to transmit message to earth for approximately 20 minutes. Alice Bowman, the operations manager said that the solid-state recorder of the New Horizon should be filled with data- http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33531811 (follow the link for more information).

The expected segments of the recorder were already used. This implies that the spacecraft has collected data. The signal that the spacecraft sent on Wednesday morning had engineering data only and it was aimed at telling the controllers if the sequence of the flyby was done properly. The spacecraft is expected to downlink the initial high-resolution pictures in the late hours of Wednesday.

While congratulating the team, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory director, Ralph Semmel asked, what does Pluto has for us, doughnuts, a heart and whales? He said this in reference to the informal names of the surface features’ images that were taken by the spacecraft as it approached the planet.

The mission managers are already dazzled by the planet. They said that clouds might have covered Pluto and they would not have seen a lot. However, Stern said that they are able to see a world that has different types of brightness. Some regions are very dark especially those around the equator. The regions on the north are very bright. According to Stern, the atmospheric cycles of Pluto are very strong and its surface has snows. John Grunsfeld said that Pluto is an interesting, extraordinary complex world.

According to Charles Bolden, with the current mission, NASA has visited all planets of the Solar System.

 

Sources

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33531811

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/14/us/nasa-new-horizons-pluto-flyby/index.html

http://www.theguardian.com/science/live/2015/jul/15/pluto-flyby-nasa-signal-new-horizons-probe-live

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