New Horizons Wakes Up

A replay of “Waking Up On Pluto’s Doorstep: New Horizons Comes Out of Hibernation” by The Planetary Society.

The Planetary Society show was held while waiting for the signal from New Horizons saying it had awakened and is powering up onboard systems. In the meantime (before and after) there is a great discussion of the Deep Space Network and tweeted questions including one I had myself: What about unknown objects the spacecraft may encounter? Pluto has five moons (distance ordered): Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra, there could be many objects we can not detect.

A brief discussion about what happens after the Pluto encounter is over, hint: it’s not over for New Horizons.


New Horizons

New Horizons powers systems up and comes out of hibernation for the home stretch of its journey. Wake up is scheduled for 15:00 EST / 20:00 UTC today (06 Dec 2014). If power up is successful New Horizons will transmit a radio signal back to Earth. It will take 4.5 hours for the radio signal to reach us.


Orion in Orbit


Won’t be long and the flight will be over.  We should get to see the video of re-entry, I want to see those big parachutes.

Follow the mission LIVE at the NASA TV link in banner above.

So far all is going very well so from a systems point of view mission managers must be quite pleased.

YES live video from the ORION

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Splash Down!

WOW!  What excellent video!  I’ll leave the link up for a time and will post a copy of the video when a linkable one comes out.


Video source

Good Luck Orion

NASA TV played this video Trial by Fire earlier this morning and shows an overview of today’s flight. We’ll see how to goes a little later.


Launch is still a go. Weather isn’t a problem so far. There was one wind gust peak near the top end of the launch criteria and has not recurred. The odds due to weather is 70 percent.

Live video for the launch is down the page in the previous post.

Update: New liftoff time is 07:05 EST / 12:05 UT on Friday 05 December 2014



Tomorrow’s First Step to Mars

Mission/Orbiter:  Exploration Flight Test-1 / Orion (United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin)

Launch Vehicle:  ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket 

Note: This is the first flight of spacecraft that will take astronauts to Mars.

Current Status: Go

Launch Date: Thursday, 04 December 2014 07:05 EDT / 12:05 UTC

Mission Duration: 4.5 hours

Odds of Launch: 60 percent

Hoping to put up a look at Complex 37 at KSC when it comes available. — Webcam Image courtesy: NASA/Kennedy Space Center

NOAA’s Forecast:

Wednesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. Northeast wind around 10 mph.

Thursday A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 77. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Keeping an eye on the weather!  This flight is short in duration and long on expectations.

You can catch the launch and return at NASA-TV link above and hope to have Live video on this page when the time comes.

Image Credits: NASA / NOAA


Enceladus seen against Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus seen against Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A nice image of the moon Enceladus seen with the back drop of the planet Saturn. This is the same sort of alignment Cassini was in to get the image of Tethys and Mimas posted here a last week (see Ring Shadows).

Enceladus is 504 km / 313 miles across and Cassini was 948,000 km / 589,000 miles away (about twice the Earth – Moon distance) so we can see how massive Saturn is.  Learn more about Enceladus here,

Aside from Enceladus, the image shows wonderful detail in Saturn’s atmosphere. In particular the two dark round spots (center and upper right) and the interesting cloud feature about half way between Enceladus and the larger round spot. The cloud features look like they are rising vertically from the planet but probably are not. The round spots are disturbances in the atmosphere, much like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot only smaller.

Click the image to get a larger version and it scales pretty well so if you download it you can make it larger yet. You can get a full-res version and more details at the “Mighty Little Dot“.

Charon in Orbit

The moon Charon orbiting Pluto at a distance of 18,000 km / 11,200 miles from the New Horizons spacecraft.  Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The moon Charon orbiting Pluto at a distance of 18,000 km / 11,200 miles from the New Horizons spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A nice animation of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon in orbit around Pluto. The animation was made in July 2014 from 12 images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. At the time of the photos New Horizons was closing in quickly on Pluto. The distance to the Plutonian system ranged from 429 million to 422 million km (or 267 million to 262 million miles) in the time it took to take the images. Shortly after this set of images was taken New Horizons went back into a hibernation mode, the last one.

On Saturday (06 Dec 2014) at 15:00 EST / 20:00 UTC, the instruments on the New Horizons spacecraft will be switched on as the craft comes out of hibernation and gets ready to do some serious science!

The first thing on the agenda is, as you might guess, telling mission control it is alive and well and in “active” mode. The transmission from New Horizons is scheduled to occur 90 minutes after the spacecraft wakes up, so that will be at 16:30 EST / 21:30 UTC. When will we hear the good news signal? Not until 4 hours and 25 minutes later, it takes that long for radio signals to travel the 4.7 billion km / 2.9 billion miles from New Horizons at the speed of light!

A long way from home and closing in on the prize.  The spacecraft will be just 162 million miles from Pluto when it wakes up.

New Horizons

By the way if you notice a wobble in the image above, it occurs because Charon is a very large moon compared to Pluto and they orbit around their common center of gravity – the barycenter.