“It says something very deep about humans and our society, something very good about us, that we’ve invested our time and treasure in building a machine that can fly across three billion miles of space to explore the Pluto system…..” Alan Stern, Astronomer and Aeronautical Engineer quoted in Smithsonian, June 2015
The New Horizons mission to the Dwarf Planet, Pluto, is a pioneering feat of astronomical research, resulting in almost a decade of space travel at up to 47,000 mph, culminating in the closest approach on July 14th 2015. In the run up to, and in the days after, New Horizons will carry out an astronomic schedule of research initiatives aimed at revealing the first close up view of this cold, unexplored world.
Although we’re a long way off of a human mission to Pluto, you can still check out the almost 3 billion mile journey with NASA’s Eyes on Pluto simulation!
Keep up to date with the latest from the New Horizons mission by following NASA’s blogs.
Eyes on Pluto is the latest simulation from the Eyes on the Solar System team who have created a series of 3D environments full of real NASA mission data. These simulations allow you to explore the whole solar system from your computer.
Another aspect of the Eyes on Pluto project, is NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The DSN is a network of three highly sophisticated antenna arrays, stationed in three locations around the globe. These sites, distributed at roughly 120-degree intervals around Earth ensure constant contact can be maintained with objects in deep space, including the New Horizons spacecraft.
Communications received from New Horizons are sent from DSN to mission control and used to check the probe’s progress. Scientific data is then relayed on to the Science Operations Center for processing.
It’s possible to track which of three DSN sites is currently in contact with New Horizons via DSN Now.
In July, we will be publishing a summary of New Horizons research, highlighting the path from papers to Pluto – we’ll let you know when it’s out.