Good News from New Horizons


From NASA:
The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.

“I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft,” said Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “Now – with Pluto in our sights – we’re on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold.”

Preparations are ongoing to resume the originally planned science operations on July 7 and to conduct the entire close flyby sequence as planned. The mission science team and principal investigator have concluded that the science observations lost during the anomaly recovery do not affect any primary objectives of the mission, with a minimal effect on lesser objectives. “In terms of science, it won’t change an A-plus even into an A,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

By the way, a rather serious family emergency has come up and I may have my ups and downs over the next bit of time.  That and the fact I am getting ready to move has my world a wee bit messy.



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Earth At Aphelion


We will reach our farthest distance from the Sun today 06 July 2015 at 19:41 UTC / 15:41 EDT.

Notice that the June solstice was 15 days ago. Why doesn’t aphelion occur on the solstice? That all has to do with the way the Gregorian calendar fixes the dates so there isn’t too much variation. Thanks to variations in the elliptical orbit the time of year Aphelion and Perihelion does change. The change is according to about a day every 58 years. In fact they did concide in the year 1246 and will again sometime around the year 6430.

Another explanation in video form is here.

And while I’m at it here’s a nice look at A Walk though Time.

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New Horizons Has a Problem

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory lost contact with the New Horizons spacecraft for a little less than two hours yesterday. The bump in the road to Pluto came at 17:54 UTC yesterday.

The internal systems onboard the New Horizons spacecraft responded to the problem putting the spacecraft into “safe mode” and reiniitiated comminications with backup computer. Communications was restored at 19:15 UTC.

A New Horizons Anomaly Review Board was convened at 20:00 UTC to gather information on the problem and initiate a recovery plan based on telemtry received about the problem.

The review is ongoing, with less than 10 days to go before arriving at Pluto and the nine-hour round trip time for commmunications the Review Board is being very thoughtful about the response.

The image below from the LORRI camera on the New Horizons was taken 03 July 2015 from a distance of 21.7 million km / 13.5 million miles.


Image: The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / NASA

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Asteroid Day: Ask the ESA Experts

On Asteroid Day (30 June) ESA experts on Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and asteroids answered the public’s most insightful questions. Respondents include Ian Carnelli, AIM Project Manager, Detlef Koshny, SSA-NEO Segment Manager and Michael Kueppers, AIM Project Scientist.


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Pluto in Color


From New Horizons:

Pluto shows two remarkably different sides in these color images of the planet and its largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on June 25 and June 27. The images were made from black-and-white images combined with lower-resolution color data. The left image shows the side of Pluto that will be seen at highest resolution when New Horizons makes its close approach on July 14. The hemisphere is dominated by a very dark region that extends along the equator. The right image is of the side that faces Charon; the most dramatic feature on this side of Pluto is a row of dark spots arranged along the equator. (The equator appears near the bottom of the images, as only about half of the planet is shown.)

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute


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Active Pits on Rosetta’s Comet


On 20 September 2014, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft made an extremely close pass to Comet 67/P Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This image was taken from just 26 km / 16 miles from the surface.

There are 18 pits identified on 67/G-C, each named for the region they are in. Some are active and some are not. This image shows the Seth series of pits, Seth_01 is the one in the center and the easiet to recognize. See this ESA post for more location information. Seth_01 is 220 m / 722 feet across and 185 m / 607 feet deep. We don’t see activity in the image, however the diversity of the terrain was the goal.

I will admit to fiddling with the image to see if I could bring out some activty but I could not. One has to wonder if the same image was taken today if activity would be seen.


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Russian Cargo Ship Launch

The Russian ISS Progress 60 cargo ship will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 04:55 UTC / 00:55 EDT tomorrow morning (Friday 03 July 2015).

The ship will deliver 2,770 kg / 6,105 lbs of supplies including food, water, oxygen spare parts etc.

The cargo ship is scheduled to dock with the ISS on 05 July 2015 at 07:13 UTC / 03:13 EDT with coverage beginning at 06:30 UTC / 02:30 EDT.

Click here for streaming coverage of both launch and docking via NASA TV.

I should note this is the first Progress launch after the failed Progress 59 launch this spring.

I’ll post a replay once it becomes available.

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