Nap Time for New Horizons

Flight controllers Mike Conner and Josh Albers, in the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, await the signal confirming the spacecraft’s entry into hibernation on August 29; (inset) mission operations manager Alice Bowman keeps an eye on spacecraft telemetry and the communications link between New Horizons and NASA's Deep Space Network.  Image and caption: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA/JPL

Flight controllers Mike Conner and Josh Albers, in the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, await the signal confirming the spacecraft’s entry into hibernation on August 29; (inset) mission operations manager Alice Bowman keeps an eye on spacecraft telemetry and the communications link between New Horizons and NASA’s Deep Space Network. Image and caption: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA/JPL

Shortly after crossing the Neptune orbit New Horizons mission controllers at Johns Hopkins University put the New Horizons spacecraft down for a nap. This period of hibernation will be the last in the mission.

Mission managers verified a sucessful entry into hibernation at 13:21 UT 29 August. This part of the mission comes after a 10-week check of the spacecraft systems “The checkout went very well,” says Chris Hersman, New Horizons mission systems engineer from APL. “The spacecraft is healthy and in great shape to begin Pluto encounter activities in early 2015.”

The spacecraft was more than 4,425,696,000 km (4.426 billion) or 2,750,000,000 miles (2.75 billion) from Earth when the commands were sent. It takes over four hours for commands to reach the spacecraft, thankfully the Deep Space Network was up to the task.

One of the commands during the hibernation sequence is to point the New Horizons main antenna where Earth will be the next time the spacecraft wakes up so data about the condition of the spacecraft will be immediatly available.

The scheduled wake up date is 07 December 2014 and “Distant-encounter” operations at Pluto to begin 04 January 2015.

New Horizons mission site.