Perhaps in our life span, we would be able to at least explore most of our solar system. Here is one of the satellite trying to help mankind. New Horizons is a NASA robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra, S/2011 P 1, and S/2012 P 1, with an estimated arrival date at the Pluto-Charon system of July 14, 2015. NASA may then also attempt flybys of one or more other Kuiper belt objects, if a suitable target can be located.
New Horizons-Journey to the end of our Solar System-Pluto was launched on January 19, 2006, directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory with an Earth-relative velocity of about 16.26 km/s after its last engine was shut down. Thus, the spacecraft left Earth at the greatest-ever launch speed for a man-made object. It flew by the orbit of Mars on April 7, 2006, the orbit of Jupiter on February 28, 2007, the orbit of Saturn on June 8, 2008; and the orbit of Uranus on March 18, 2011.
Here is a weird thing. When the spacecraft was launched, Pluto was still classified as a planet, later to be reclassified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Some members of the New Horizons team, including Alan Stern, disagree with the IAU definition and still describe Pluto as the ninth planet. Pluto’s satellites Nix and Hydra also have a connection with the spacecraft: the first letters of their names, N and H, are the initials of “New Horizons”. The moons’ discoverers chose these names for this reason, in addition to Nix and Hydra’s relationship to the mythological Pluto.
To commemorate the discovery of Pluto, one ounce of the ashes of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh are aboard the spacecraft, while one of the science packages (a dust counter) is named after Venetia Burney, who, as a child, suggested the name Pluto after its discovery.
The best image till date we have of Pluto is from Hubble Telescope and this will be even better when it reaches closer. Personally, I am too excited and waiting for 2015.
Key mission dates (via Wikipedia)
|June 8, 2001||New Horizons selected by NASA.||After a three month concept study before submission of the proposal, two design teams were competing: POSSE (Pluto and Outer Solar System Explorer) and New Horizons.|
|June 13, 2005||Spacecraft departed APL for final testing.||Spacecraft undergoes final testing at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).|
|September 24, 2005||Spacecraft shipped to Cape Canaveral||It was moved through Andrews Air Force Base aboard a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft.|
|December 17, 2005||Spacecraft ready for in rocket positioning||Transported from Hazardous Servicing Facility to Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.|
|January 11, 2006||Primary launch window opened||The launch was delayed for further testing.|
|January 16, 2006||Rocket moved onto launch pad||Atlas V launcher, serial number AV-010, rolled out onto pad.|
|January 17, 2006||Launch delayed||First day launch attempts scrubbed because of unacceptable weather conditions (high winds).|
|January 18, 2006||Launch delayed again||Second launch attempt scrubbed because of morning power outage at the Applied Physics Laboratory.|
|January 19, 2006||Successful launch at 14:00 EST (19:00 UTC)||The spacecraft was successfully launched after brief delay due to cloud cover.|
|April 7, 2006||Passing of Mars’s orbit||The probe passed Mars’s orbit: 1.7 AU from Earth.|
|June 13, 2006||Flyby of asteroid 132524 APL||The probe passed closest to the asteroid 132524 APL in the Belt at about 101,867 km at 04:05 UTC. Pictures were taken.|
|November 28, 2006||First image of Pluto||The image of Pluto was taken from a great distance, rendering the dwarf planet faint.|
|January 10, 2007||Navigation exercise near Jupiter||Long distance observations of Jupiter’s outer moon Callirrhoe as a navigation exercise.|
|February 28, 2007||Jupiter flyby||Closest approach occurred at 05:43:40 UTC at 2.305 million km, 21.219 km/s.|
|June 8, 2008||Passing of Saturn’s orbit||The probe passed Saturn’s orbit: 9.5 AU from Earth.|
|December 29, 2009||The probe became closer to Pluto than to Earth||Pluto was then 32.7 AU from Earth, and the probe was 16.4 AU from Earth|
|February 25, 2010||Half mission distance reached||Half the travel distance of 1,480,000,000 miles was completed.|
|March 18, 2011||The probe passed Uranus‘s orbit||This is the fourth planetary orbit the spacecraft crossed since its start. New Horizons reached Uranus’s orbit at 22:00 GMT.|
|December 2, 2011||New Horizons drew closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft has ever been.||Previously, Voyager 1 held the record for the closest approach. (~10.58 AU)|
|February 11, 2012||New Horizons was 10 AU from Pluto.||Happened at around 4:55 UTC.|
|October 2013||New Horizons will only be 5 AU from Pluto.|
|August 24, 2014||The probe will pass Neptune’s orbit||This will be the fifth planetary orbit the spacecraft crosses.|
|February 2015||Observations of Pluto begin||New Horizons is now close enough to Pluto for the main science mission to begin.|
|May 5, 2015||Better than Hubble||Images exceed best Hubble Space Telescope resolution.|
|July 14, 2015||Flyby of Pluto, Charon, Hydra, Nix||Flyby of Pluto around 11:47 UTC at 13,695 km, 13.78 km/s. Flyby of Charon, Hydra, Nix, S/2011 P 1 and S/2012 P 1 around 12:01 UTC at 29,473 km, 13.87 km/s.|
|2016–2020||Possible flyby of one or more Kuiper belt objects (KBOs)||The probe will perform flybys of other KBOs, if any are in the spacecraft’s proximity.|
|2026||Expected end of mission||According to NASA, the Dwarf Planets mission will come to an end.|
Many people think it is a wastage of money, investing money on space research they say – “It has no profit to Mankind”. And there is a cheap section who say – “Money can be used to food poor”. Well, it give jobs to jobless people and feeds them and most important it will pay off with an important discovery like – Cure of Cancer, Helium 3, End of power problem. There are endless capabilities of the universe which human being does not know. Quest of Knowledge must not be weighed by the money.
On India’s Mars mission, ISRO is working to meet the November 2013 launch target. India may well join for space quest if they could get more funding from the government. ISRO’s budget is only 0.34% of Central government expenditure !
Seems, NASA will continue to be the pioneer in Space Exploration in coming times.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is the most distant human-made object in the universe.
Its twin, Voyager 2, has traveled to more planets than any other in history.
The spacecraft twins, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched by NASA during the summer of 1977 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Barring any fatal equipment failures, the Voyager twins are likely to survive and relay data from beyond the outer planets for many decades into the 21st century.
Today, in a dark, cold, vacant neighborhood at the very edge of our Solar System, NASA’s Voyager 1 deep space probe holds the record as the Earth explorer that has traveled farthest from home.
June 28, 2010 – Voyager 2
NASA’s plucky Voyager 2 spacecraft has hit a long-haul operations milestone today (June 28) — operating continuously for 12,000 days. For nearly 33 years, the venerable spacecraft has been returning data about the giant outer planets, and the characteristics and interaction of solar wind between and beyond the planets. Among its many findings, Voyager 2 discovered Neptune’s Great Dark Spot and its 450-meter-per-second (1,000-mph) winds.
The two Voyager spacecraft have been the longest continuously operating spacecraft in deep space. Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977, when Jimmy Carter was president. Voyager 1 launched about two weeks later on Sept. 5. The two spacecraft are the most distant human-made objects, out at the edge of the heliosphere — the bubble the sun creates around the solar system. Mission managers expect Voyager 1 to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space in the next five years or so, with Voyager 2 on track to enter interstellar space shortly after that.
Having traveled more than 21 billion kilometers (13 billion miles) on its winding path through the planets toward interstellar space, the spacecraft is now nearly 14 billion kilometers (9 billion miles) from the sun. A signal from the ground, traveling at the speed of light, takes about 12.8 hours one-way to reach Voyager 2.
Voyager 1 reached this 12,000-day milestone on July 13, 2010 after traveling more than 22 billion kilometers (14 billion miles). Voyager 1 is currently more than 17 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) from the sun.
The Voyagers were built by JPL, which continues to operate both spacecraft. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
Summary of the satellites crossed Solar System:
The current status of Voyager 1 (as well as Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons) is available online at Spacecraft Escaping the Solar System.
As of July 27, 2010 , Voyager 1 was about 113.478 AU (16.976 billion km, or 10.549 billion miles) or 0.002 of a light-year from the Sun. Voyager 1′s current relative velocity is 17.07 km/s, or 61,452 kilometres per hour (38,185 mph). This calculates as 3.6 AU per year, about 10% faster than Voyager 2.
NASA extrapolated the location and heliocentric coordinates of both Voyager space probes up to 2015.On November 19, 2015, Voyager 1 will be approximately 133.15 Astronomical Units from the Sun.
As of August 2010, Voyager 2 is 93 AU from the Sun, at −55.32° declination and 19.785 h right ascension, placing it in the constellation Telescopium as observed from Earth.