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Old 09-26-2006   #41
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Re: Jupiter Ahoy!

fuck man... i was worried for a second cos of the title of this thread, i thought that they were deciding to get rid of Jupiter as a planet (like they did with Pluto)...

well... thank god that isn't it... Jupiter looks pretty cool hehe (mmmm greyscale *drools* )
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Old 11-02-2006   #42
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New Horizons PI Perspective

Alan Stern is the head of the New Horizons Pluto mission and writes a little blurb once in a while keeping space junkies such as me posted on what is going on not only with the probe itself, but behind the scenes at the mission control facilities as well. Way back about March, I had originally said (when I posted the first of the PI's Perspective articles) that this was going to be a monthly report but it turns out Alan writes only when there is something noteworthy to say. That's OK really- can't expect him to drop everything just to say "It's all good... see ya next month!"

At any rate, the entire newsletter is available here but for those of you who just can't be bothered to read the whole not-too-long letter, here are a few of the more interesting highlights:

Quote:
As we continue to fly outward from the Sun at 78,700 kilometers (48,600 miles) an hour, our communications time, or RTLT* (round trip light time), is increasing rapidly. In fact, it's now approaching an hour and a half round trip, at the speed of light! For that reason, our mission and payload operations team has been working to complete a whole series of activities that are best done now, before the communications time increases still further. Since late September, they've completed each of the following activities...

...In addition to these activities, the spacecraft team at APL and our navigation team at KinetX, Inc., in southern California, have carefully compiled all available tracking data to show that our actual course is very close to the optimal trajectory to the Pluto aim point at Jupiter. At a meeting on Oct. 19, we concluded that we're so close to the optimal course that no corrections appear to be necessary on the way to Jupiter. Actually, we got a formal solution telling us we should make a mid-December course correction of about 0.4 meters/second (0.9 miles/hour), but the effort to design and test this engine burn wasn't worth the time it would take away from more important activities, like planning the best possible Jupiter encounter. Moreover, the error induced by skipping this maneuver will be small — only about 870 kilometers (550 miles) at Jupiter. That may sound like a lot, but when you compare that to the Pluto aim point's 2.48 million-kilometers distance from Jupiter, you see that we're on a bulls-eye course with a predicted error of 0.035% (that's 3.5 parts in ten thousand, folks, equivalent to throwing a football two miles and still putting it within easy reach of the receiver).

...the communications blackout that will occur later this month.

The reason for the upcoming blackout is that we have a solar conjunction coming up in late November. More specifically, from November 19 to 27, New Horizons will be almost exactly on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, with the spacecraft's position in Earth's sky less than 3 degrees from the position of the Sun, making communications difficult. This happens to most planetary spacecraft each year, and some of you will recall that the Mars rovers and orbiters all experienced a solar conjunction blackout in October.


As a result of the Sun's interference, we won't plan to communicate with New Horizons at all during those eight days, but we will monitor its carrier signal to see how close to the Sun we can operate in future solar conjunctions.
*In reference to the RTLT which Alan started with, recall that the speed of light is somewhat in excess of 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/sec). That works out to over 670 million miles/hr (1,000,000,000 km/hr). When New Horizons reaches Pluto, any radio signals sent by NH will take about five hours to reach Earth! Of course, any commands sent from Earth will take 5 hours to get to the NH probe... Just an example of how flippin huge the Solar System is. But the size of our Solar System is nothing compared to the distances between the stars. At the speed of light, the very closest star to our own Sun (Alpha Centauri) is 4 years and 4 months away. At the stated speed of 48,600 mph, it would take the NH probe over 50,000 years to reach Alpha C. Unfortunately, Earth science has a long way to go before we can flit between the stars like the Enterprise does!

EDIT: In case you are wondering what the "AU" is on the attachment, it stands for Astronomical Unit. 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun-93 million miles (150 million km).
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File Type: jpg nhcp20061101_0051.jpg (54.2 KB, 2 views)
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Old 11-28-2006   #43
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Latest New Horizons News Releases

As I said a month or so ago, I originally thought there would be a monthly report from Alan Stern. As it turns out, the PI writes only when there is something noteworthy to publish- and folks, has there been some noteworthiness going on in the last couple of weeks!

First, there was a short retrospective on the status of NH as it was a year ago compared to what it was doing during the week of Thanksgiving. You can see that here.

Then, just today another news story broke. This one is on the first sighting of Pluto itself by the main imager carried by the NH probe and can be seen here.

Also, Popular Science magazine featured the NH probe in their annual "Best Of What's New" list for 2006. See what PS had to say about the mission here.

Finally, the story of the student-built dust impact sensor ("Venetia") has been documented as a short film made by University of Colorado journalism student David Tauchen -which, BTW has already won an award- and that vid (along with a number of others) can be found here.

Cool stuff... and more as it becomes available!
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Old 01-05-2007   #44
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Alan Stern's Latest Post

Alan is, if you don't recall, the Principle Investigator of the Pluto New Horizons Mission and he posts updates on the status of the NH device itself as well as what the Mission Control team are doing behind the scenes. January 19th will be NH's first year in space... with 8 more to go before the Pluto encounter-but hardly uneventful. The Mission Control team are gearing up for probably the single most important mid-mission event: namely the Jupiter swingby. That is a close sweep around Jupiter to use the giant planet's gravity to A) adjust the precise trajectory of NH to a Pluto rendezvous, and B) add almost 10,000 mph to it's outward speed. The original speed of NH was close to 50000mph, but with the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars behind it, the combined gravity of the entire Inner Solar System has been dragging on the probe steadily slowing it down. At 9PM Central time on January 5, the probe's speed (relative to the Sun) was down to 20.02 Km/sec (44,765 mph). This deceleration has been marginal, but noticeable and of course it was all taken into account in the original calculations. Anyway, the actual closest pass with Jupiter won't be till late February; right now, NH is just short of 54 million miles (87 million Km) from Jupiter.
HERE is Alan's latest post on NH.

Where Is New Horizons Now?
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Old 01-10-2007   #45
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JUPITER ENCOUNTER BEGAN

Yeah, so I double-posted. Fuckin' sue me.

Quote:
January 10, 2007
Jupiter Encounter Begins


The New Horizons Jupiter encounter is under way! The spacecraft began collecting data on the Jovian system this week, starting with black-and-white images of the giant planet and an infrared look at the icy moon Callisto on Jan. 8.

These were the first of about 700 observations of Jupiter and its four largest moons planned from now until June. They include detailed scans of Jupiter's turbulent, stormy atmosphere and dynamic magnetic field, a peek into its faint ring system, maps of the composition and topography of the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and a look at Io's volcanic activity. Also in the flight plan: the first-ever trip down the long "tail" of Jupiter's magnetic field, which extends tens of millions of miles beyond the planet.

The New Horizons mission operations team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., works closely with science operations team, based at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo., and mission scientists to plan, test and eventually send the observation commands to the spacecraft, which runs the sequences from memory in its onboard computers.

Data are stored on the spacecraft's recorders and sent back to Earth through NASA's Deep Space Network antennas. The newest images will be available on the New Horizons Web site next week.

"Our ground team has worked very hard to get to this point," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of SwRI. "Now the curtain is rising on the next stage of Jupiter-system exploration. It's exciting!"

Closest approach to Jupiter comes Feb. 28, when the spacecraft zooms within 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). New Horizons uses Jupiter's gravity to speed toward its ultimate destination, Pluto.
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Old 01-12-2007   #46
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

I'm not trying to be stupid, but what is the point of sending a probe to a big rock some people call a planet, namly Pluto. What are we going to find out that the millions we spent on this probe? Another question I pose is that if we do find out anything, would it be near as important as if we found a cure to some disease like diabetes using that money to advance diabetes research?

Obviously, I think NASA is overated and overfunded.
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Old 01-12-2007   #47
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

The research done and the billions spent on the space program lead to:

integrated circuits and then to RAM and CPUs, making our modern PCs and laptops possible

research into microwave technology to communicate voice and data to and from the Moon and other planets made cellphones, GPS and wireless internet possible

polishing our skills putting satellites into specific orbits lead to our all having cable and satellite TV

making rocket engines more efficient led to fuel injection in modern auto engines

variations of advanced materials (plastics, alloys and ceramics) originally developed for use in the space program are routinely used to rebuild folk's hearts, knees, hips etc. as well as making above mentioned auto engines last a great deal longer. Having a car with a "10 yr/100,000 mile warranty" would have been impossible in 1976

still talking cars: other research and development in both materials science and electronics originally used in the space program gave us antilock brakes and airbags

imaging devices which were cutting edge 25 years ago are now used in webcams, digital cameras and video, cellphone cams and TV stations. Hollywood is now picking up the digital imaging trend as well.

Plasma, flatscreen and hi-def TV technology.

CAT scans, PET scans and MRI

That's a partial list. Space exploration is important not only for the exploration part, but for the spillover into consumer goods which we all take for granted. If we sat on our asses back in the 60's and 70's and not worked so hard and spent so much on the Apollo, Skylab, Pioneer, Voyager and all the Mars missions, we wouldn't have many of the toys a lot of you folks seem to not be able to live without (cellphones, iPods etc.)
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Old 01-18-2007   #48
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New Horizons Jupiter Encounter

Well, here we are again discussing the NH probe and the upcoming Jupiter slingshot maneuver. The NH folks are gearing up bigtime for the single most important event aside from the actual NH mission objective. NH is exactly on course and so far it seems as if all the instrumentation is working properly, but the Jupiter flyby will be the true NH shakedown. Jupiter will be scrutinized with the full suite of instruments exactly as Pluto will be in 2015 so now is the time to determine if there is anything amiss with the probe's overall health. The JHUAPL folks had a press conference this afternoon and released a statement outlining the activities planned during the actual closest pass with Jupiter. Currently, the probe is still some 40 million miles (64 million km) from Jupiter, but NH is fully awake and is beginning the scientific survey of the Jupiter system. The actual closest NH will come to Jupiter isn't until Feb 28, but the survey is going at full power now. The folks at JHUAPL are delighted with the performance of NH and everything seems to be working great. The LORRI imager has been taking pictures since last month and these will be released soon. Other images and animation used in the press conference can be found here.

Oh, and by the way, tomorrow (Jan 19) is the one year mark since launch. One year down, eight to go...
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Old 01-24-2007   #49
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1 Year In Space, NHK's And More On Jupiter

Alan Stern's reflections on NH's one year in space, NHK's and what the team is seeing on Jupiter:
-------------------------------------------

The PI's Perspective
One Year Down, Eight to Go, on the Road to Pluto
January 23, 2007

A year ago this past Friday, on January 19, 2006, New Horizons lifted off on a pillar of smoke and fire and began its journey to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. How quickly that year has passed. New Horizons and our ground team accomplished a great deal in that first year of flight, including:

>A complete checkout of the spacecraft and its redundant subsystems.

>Three small trajectory correction maneuvers that precisely steered our little craft toward its Pluto aim point, some 2 million kilometers off Jupiter's limb.

>A complete checkout and initial calibrations of all seven on-board scientific instruments.

>The design, testing and installation of new guidance and navigation, fault protection/autonomy, and command and data handling software packages that repair bugs found in flight and enable a variety of new capabilities.

>Tests of target-tracking capabilities during a serendipitous, target of opportunity flyby of the small asteroid 2002 JF56, now officially named "APL" by the International Astronomical Union.

>Initial planning for the first hibernation phase on the cruise from Jupiter to Pluto.

>Preparation of more than 700 separate Jupiter science observations scheduled for January-June 2007.

>The start of Jupiter approach observations on January 6, 2007.

In learning to fly our "bird," we've also come to work the kinks out of our ground systems, our ground-based spacecraft simulator, our flight-control processes and our data-reduction and observation planning tools. These many activities summarize the busy year we've had, but they hardly capture the intense workload for the small science and operations teams that together operate New Horizons.
Now, as we think about the one year behind us and the almost 8 1/2 years to go to reach our first frontier destination — the Pluto system — we're humbled by the task ahead: We must be good stewards of New Horizons as it flies another 2.5 billion miles, or more than 4 billion kilometers!

The iconic cartoon image of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown (in Charles Shultz's "Peanuts" comic strip) is a constant reminder to us all on New Horizons that, despite what the spacecraft and team have accomplished, we are not yet even close to achieving our goal. The lesson here is clear: We have a lot to be proud of but we can never let our guard down, for the goods we aim to bring home are still far beyond our present position, and almost a decade still hence.

But enough on that. We have a Jupiter encounter under way and it's already exciting.

New Horizons Kids

Before I turn to the beginnings of our Jupiter encounter, I want to cover a topic I promised I would in my last PI Perspective on January 5. It's called "New Horizons Kids." The idea came to me when I saw a marvelous image (from Florida Today) of two boys watching our launch last year.

That image gave me the idea that we could follow the development of some children growing up during our 9 1/2-year journey from Earth to Pluto.

So, today, I am announcing a new part of our Education and Public Outreach program called New Horizons Kids, or NHKs.


We're looking for four to six boys and girls born on January 19, 2006, and another four to six kids who turned 10 that day. We'll follow those 10 or 12 kids as they grow to be 10 and 20 years old, respectively, while our dream machine New Horizons soars across the solar system. From time to time, we'll check in on our kids, and by the time the newborns from launch reach 4th grade and the 10-year-olds from launch reach the middle of college, we'll be at Pluto.

So, if you or a relative or a friend has a child who was born on either January 19, 2006, or January 19, 1996, please send the child's name, birth date, a recent picture and the names and e-mail address(es) of their parents to plutokids@jhuapl.edu. We'll collect nominations until we pass Jupiter, and then we'll announce the roster of children we'll be following for another 8-plus years as New Horizons Kids.

Jupiter, Here We Come!

Now let me turn to my final topic for this time: We are now in full swing doing Jupiter approach observations. Already, our SWAP and PEPSSI instruments are measuring the particle environment upstream of Jupiter, looking for the first signs of the giant planet's magnetospheric influence, which we hope to detect early next month. At the same time, our LORRI and Ralph imagers are already training themselves on Jupiter, assessing its meteorological state and using its satellites for both optical navigation practice and calibration targets. So too, our REX radio science package has begun testing using the Jupiter system as a calibration source, and our Alice ultraviolet spectrometer will begin an intensive set of observations of Jovian aurora and the Io plasma torus in just over a month.

Exciting results are already revealing themselves. Early LORRI imagery of Jupiter has revealed the planet's atmospheric state to be unlike what Cassini or Galileo saw, and much more reminiscent of the 1979 Voyager 1 flyby. In fact, just last week, Jupiter expert Dr. Kevin Baines of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of our mission science team collaborators, wrote on seeing the first LORRI approach images: "It seems clear that Jupiter is showing us a different face than we've seen on previous encounters. Jupiter's equatorial and southern tropical latitudes seem remarkably quiescent, all the way down to the Great Red Spot (GRS). It seems the skies are clear over a much larger fraction of the planet than has been typically encountered by these other spacecraft . . .so it seems we may not get the typical ammonia-cloud storms forming in the GRS turbulent region. However, Jupiter is known for dramatic spurts of activity, and we can keep our fingers crossed that something a bit more exciting might happen before late February . . . But if Jupiter remains relatively quiet, this might give us a valuable opportunity to effectively plumb the obscure depths of Jupiter below the ammonia clouds. In particular, these clear skies mean we can look deep over nearly the entire turbulent region northwest of the GRS. With the spectral mapping capability of LEISA, this could give us the first near-IR spectral identification of deep water clouds there, if the skies are clear of the ammonia hydrosulfide cloud as well."

Another of our key Jupiter experts, mission science team collaborator Dr. Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was also impressed with our first images of the giant planet, and wrote: "I'm struck by how similar the equatorial region appears, compared with a Voyager 1 map. Away from there, the GRS is still rounder today, and currently shows less convective activity in the region to its west. We also don't see brown barges in the north, but we haven't seen those since Voyager, anyway. The 'Little Red Spot' is still red, but that region may be showing some other activity."

This is so cool! We set out for Pluto-Charon and the Kuiper Belt thinking of Jupiter as little more than a gravity assist target and a testing ground in preparation for the real meat and potatoes that lies ahead in the second half of the 2010s. Yet, even our first Jupiter system observations are revealing new things about the solar system's largest planet. And those first images were taken more than 35 times farther than we will be at closest approach. So hold on to your hats, sports fans, it's going to get better and better over the next six weeks. Jupiter, here we come!

Well, that's all I have time to write just now. I'll be back with another update soon, as Jupiter nears. In the meantime, keep on exploring - just like we do.

-Alan Stern
---------------------------------------

I like Alan's NHK idea. I wonder how these kid's lives will be affected just knowing they are associated with NH and whether or not they will perhaps join the team.

And a comment on the hardware and software: Why can't engineers build a DVD player or a computer with the same quality standards that NH has? Obviously NH isn't using Microsoft products as their OS. Otherwise, the NH would probably be on its way to the Sun instead of Jupiter
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Old 02-01-2007   #50
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

It's not actually an Alan Stern post, but the NH site has released some CG closeups of the path which the NH will trace as it does its Jupiter slingshot maneuver and can be seen here
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Old 02-01-2007   #51
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

Do you think all of that would not have been invented if NASA never came about? By that I mean even though NASA invented it, why wouldn't private enterprise have found it as well?
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Old 02-02-2007   #52
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

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Originally Said by Mr. Definistrate View Post
Do you think all of that would not have been invented if NASA never came about? By that I mean even though NASA invented it, why wouldn't private enterprise have found it as well?

Most likely private enterprise would have come up with much of what I mentioned, but not nearly as fast. You have to understand the state the world was in back in the 50's. The US had recently won WW2 by doing something utterly spectacular (even if it was horribly demonstrated): we had developed the atomic bomb. As a result of that, the US had become a "superpower" and was looked at by the eyes of the world in a kind of awe. The problem with that was the US was pretty much in awe of itself, too. At that time, the Soviets were considered by the United States as being little better than a bunch of farmers and yet it was those very same Russians that put the first satellite into orbit, the first man in space, and the first woman in space. It was known (or at least suspected) that the Russian's next step was to put people on the Moon and the US simply wouldn't tolerate that. The US's pride was severly bruised and Kennedy had to do something HUGE to regain the US's position as the "world's greatest scientists". It was more a political motivation than a scientific one to send people to the Moon. Only the Manhattan Project was as large a scientific endeavour as the space project was in the 20th century. The billions spent on putting humans on the Moon was spent in a great many areas of research, creating literally hundreds of thousands of jobs and creating materials, instruments and technology that had never existed before.

Oh, and as to NASA being overfunded: I don't recall the exact numbers but the US is spending at least as much if not more in any given week on the military actions in the Middle East than NASA's entire yearly budget.
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Old 02-17-2007   #53
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Getting Closer!

The Pluto New Horizons probe is rapidly approaching Jupiter for its Feb 27 slingshot maneuver. As of noon Central time on Feb 17, the NH was only 0.12 astronomical units (AU- the distance between Earth and the Sun) or 11,600,000 miles (17,850,000km) from Jupiter. NH is already well within the orbits of Jupiter's outer moons and will pass very close to Jupiter's four largest moons: Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. The NH probe is operating at full power during this planetary pass and the mission control folks are treating the Jupiter pass exactly as they will during the Pluto pass in 2015 in order to stress test the machine and make sure there are no bugs in either the hardware or software. So far, the NH probe is exactly on course and is working perfectly. Once the slingshot maneuver is completed, NH will finish its survey of Jupiter, and then the mission control folks will put the probe to "sleep" for the long, long voyage across the orbits of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. About once a month or so, the probe will be awakened and queried as to its overall health, but after the Jupiter encounter, there will be very little for NH to do except travel.

Pic 1- Diagram of many (but not all) of Jupiter's outer moons.

Pic 2- Diagram of Jupiter's inner moons. On the image in #1, the point of view is so far away from Jupiter that you can't even see the inner moons.

Jupiter's gravity is so strong (about 2.5 times that of Earth- 10 lbs on Earth weigh 25 lbs on Jupiter assuming that Jupiter even had a surface to stand on which it doesn't) that occasionally an asteroid in orbit around the Sun will pass close enough to Jupiter for Jupiter to "win" a tug-of-war game with the Sun and gain a new moon. Jupiter is constantly getting and losing moons in the form of small asteroids. However, the closest 4 moons have always been moons of Jupiter and always will be. No way the Sun can pull them out of the tight gravitational grip of Jupiter.
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File Type: gif Jupiter_moons_anim.gif (135.1 KB, 0 views)
File Type: png Galileans.png (8.3 KB, 0 views)
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Old 02-22-2007   #54
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Alan Stern 22 Feb 2007

With all that Alan Stern is doing with the NH-especially with the Jupiter Encounter going full swing, he still has a few minutes to keep us all posted...


Quote:
The PI's Perspective
Campaigning for Jupiter

February 22, 2007

We're now inside of a week to Jupiter closest approach! One aspect of our flyby that I have not yet noted is the broad campaign of coordinated Jupiter observations taking place on Earth and in space. As New Horizons approaches Jupiter, telescopes on terra firma, in Earth orbit and even far across the solar system are turning to observe the "big picture" while New Horizons provides the fine details.

Prominent examples of telescopes enlisted to this cause include a wide variety of amateur telescopes, NASA's large Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and huge Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) and the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellites operating in Earth orbit. Over the next two weeks, these various facilities will intensively image and obtain spectroscopy of Jupiter's atmosphere and aurora, Jupiter's moon Io, and of the Io plasma torus — the donut-shaped ring of plasma that rotates with the moon around Jupiter.

Additionally, the Alice ultraviolet spectrometer on the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet-orbiter mission will be observing the Io plasma torus from its ringside seat near Mars beginning next week. (Rosetta flies by Mars on February 25 for a gravity assist of its own).

Rosetta's Alice, a sister of the Alice ultraviolet spectrometer on New Horizons, will monitor the Io plasma torus and Jovian aurora emission during March and April as New Horizons flies down Jupiter's magnetotail. Why? The Alice instrument aboard New Horizons can't do this because it would involve looking almost directly back into the Sun, but the Rosetta Alice instrument can achieve the same thing since Jupiter is deep in the night sky as seen from Mars. Pretty sweet, huh?

As we gear up for the onslaught of observations New Horizons will make, my team at New Horizons thanks all of the ground-based and space-based observing teams, whose important supporting observations strengthen and deepen the value of our Jupiter flyby.

I'll be back with more news and views in a few days. Keep exploring!

- Alan Stern
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Old 02-26-2007   #55
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Re: Alan Stern's Latest Post

Tomorrow is the New Horizon's closest pass with Jupiter but NH has been surveying the Jupiter system since the second week of January. Alan Stern has more:

Quote:
Picking up the Pace
February 26, 2007

We're in the thick of it at Jupiter now! Since early on Saturday, February 24, New Horizons has been executing its Jupiter close approach sequence, which contains 15 to 20 observations per day. Recall this is almost 10 times more than what we were doing just a week earlier!

Here on the ground we aren't yet seeing much science data, but the engineering data we're getting shows the encounter is progressing nominally and the various observations are coming off right on schedule.

What's next? Today, we're studying atmospheric composition and structure of both Io and Callisto, mapping the surface compositions of Ganymede and Europa, searching for embedded moonlets in Jupiter's rings, obtaining high-resolution images of the Little Red Spot on Jupiter, imaging Io's volcanic plumes, and obtaining ring images to study the phase-angle behavior of their dust. We're also sending home eight hours of downlink data. All the while, we're studying Jupiter's magnetosphere. By late tomorrow we'll be at closest approach, but there are still twice as many observations tomorrow as we're making today!

Before I close for today, I was recently asked to say something about what became of the now-derelict Boeing STAR-48 upper stage that boosted us onto our Jupiter trajectory. Well, the last anyone saw of it was on launch day, January 19, 2006. As a result, its trajectory isn't nearly as well known as the path of New Horizons, but we do know it will make its closest approach to Jupiter on Tuesday, February 27, about six or so hours before New Horizons does. Moreover, we know that our upper stage is headed to an aim point almost half a million kilometers farther from Jupiter than New Horizons. As a result of these "errors" in its trajectory, our third stage will miss Pluto in 2015 by about 200 million kilometers — which is about as far as the average distance from the Sun to Mars!

I'll be back with more news and views soon. Keep exploring, as we do!

- Alan Stern

During the Jupiter encounter, you'll also be able to read Alan Stern's blog on the Astronomy magazine Web site; check out http://www.astronomy.com for details.
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Old 02-28-2007   #56
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Done, And Done!

Early this morning, the NH probe made its closest pass with Jupiter and successfully added almost 10,000 MPH to its speed. The probe will continue to study the Jupiter system until June then will be powered down to "hibernation mode" for the long cold trip to Pluto.

EDIT: Be sure to check out the other related articles at the bottom of the news page I linked to.
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Old 03-05-2007   #57
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Re: New Horizons Jupiter Encounter

Now that the Jupiter close encounter is over, the NH is still "looking over its shoulder" as it were and will continue to do so until late June before the NH Mission Control folks put NH to sleep.... not too much for me to say here; no witty cracks or comments. I'll let Alan say what needs to be said. Any bolding of text is my emphasis:

Quote:
The Tip of the Iceberg
March 5, 2007

The intensive phase of Jupiter encounter operations is winding down, but it's not yet over. In the first days of this week, we still have Radio Science Experiment (REX) and Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) calibrations using Jupiter system targets, and some imaging to better determine the shapes and photometric phase curves of Jupiter's satellites Elara and Himalia. After that, the encounter becomes almost entirely magnetotail exploration using the Solar Wind at Pluto (SWAP), Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI), and Venetia (Student Dust Counter) instruments; this final phase of the encounter lasts until mid-June.

In the past week, we conducted more than 98 separate observing sequences comprising several hundred observations. I am sure that if you're reading this, you've seen some or the entire handful of images we released in the past week — such as the beautiful LORRI imagery of Jupiter's Little Red Spot and Io's Tvashtar volcano. Well, those data represent less than 1/1000th of what we still have to send down, including color imager, more high-resolution LORRI shots, ultraviolet and infrared spectra galore, and, of course, plasma data. So while the "tip of the tip" of the iceberg is now on the ground to whet appetites, we won't have the entire dataset we've taken - all 36 gigabits! - on the ground until at least late April. But don't despair, we will begin downlinking operations this Wednesday, March 7, and will be sending back a few gigabits each week. So you should expect to see nearly weekly data releases coming from New Horizons throughout March and April.

As things settle down on the spacecraft, we've already begun planning the last portions of our instrument payload commissioning tests — things we put off until after the rush of the Jupiter encounter. We're also planning some hibernation-mode testing for April and a tiny, "jogging speed" course-correction maneuver on May 23 to trim up our trajectory.

That's it for now, but I'll be back with more news and views soon. Meanwhile, keep on exploring, as we do!

- Alan Stern
EDIT: Oh, at the distance NH is from Earth, it takes the data-travelling at 700 million mph (about 1000 million km/h)- 45 minutes to get here.
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Old 03-09-2007   #58
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Re: New Horizons Jupiter Encounter

As Alan said in the above post, the download of the data currently stored in the NH memory would begin on Mar 7. We now have some comments on an interesting image of Jupiter's ring system:

Quote:
The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter's ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. "This is one of the clearest pictures ever taken of Jupiter's faint ring system," says Dr. Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer from the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who planned many of the ring images. "The ring looks different from what we expected — it has usually appeared much wider."

Showalter suggests that the ring's largest boulders are corralled into a narrow belt by the influence of Jupiter's two innermost moons, Adrastea and Metis. The ring also appears to darken in the middle, a possible hint that a smaller, undiscovered moon is clearing out a gap. "If there is a smaller moon within those rings, we hope to see it in some of the hundreds of additional images that New Horizons will transmit back to Earth over the next several weeks," says Dr. Andy Cheng, LORRI principal investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
Click here for an annotated image of the rings.

Quote:
Showalter adds that the faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the "halo," a cloud of dust that extends down to Jupiter's cloud tops. The dust will glow much brighter in pictures taken after New Horizons passes to the far side of Jupiter and looks back at the rings, which will then be sunlit from behind.

Jupiter's ring system was discovered in 1979, when astronomers spied it in a single image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Months later, Voyager 2 carried out more extensive imaging of the system. It has since been examined by NASA's Galileo and Cassini spacecraft, as well as by the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based observatories.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
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Old 03-16-2007   #59
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New Image From New Horizons

The data downlink is progressing nicely and the NH team has raleased a new image of Jupiter taken by the infrared (heat-seeing) device.

Different wavelengths of IR penetrate to different depths through Jupiter's atmosphere so the folks at JHUAPL can actually peer down below the cloud tops which is all one sees when one looks at Jupiter with a traditional optical telescope.

Cool stuff and more to come as I get it.
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Old 03-26-2007   #60
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New Horizons Special Report

The NH probe suffered a serious computer glitch which fortunately it was able to recover from. I'll let Alan Stern say it in his own words:

Quote:
The PI's Perspective
Trip Report

March 26, 2007

New Horizons tripped up but recovered itself without a nasty spill last week. This event occurred on the afternoon of March 19, precisely 14 months to the day since we launched.

What do I mean by saying that the spacecraft "tripped?" What actually happened was that an uncorrectable memory error was detected in the memory of our primary Command and Data Handling (C&DH) computer, which is the "brains" of New Horizons. Although onboard error detection routines can and did recognize such an error within seconds of its occurrence, the error was so severe (a double-bit error in a single memory word) that there was no definitive way for our error-correction algorithm to unambiguously restore the correct series of 1's and 0's in this memory location. (Our memory, like that on many other spacecraft, is encoded such that a single-bit error can both be detected and corrected; a double-bit error can be detected, but there isn't sufficient information encoded to be sure how to correct it.)

Since a bad word in C&DH memory could invoke an unpredictable spacecraft action, C&DH is programmed to command itself to reboot (and thus restore memory from a boot PROM) whenever such an double-bit error is detected. But whenever C&DH resets, our onboard autonomous fault-detection and -protection system declares an emergency and commands the spacecraft to suspend all current activities and go to a "Safe Mode."

Given the spacecraft mode and state on the afternoon of March 19, the result was that the bird was spun up from 3-axis control to a stable 5-RPM spin, and its antenna was pointed to Earth and commanded to call home for help. New Horizons also commanded itself to shut off unessential power loads (like the PEPSSI and SWAP instruments, which had been collecting Jupiter magnetotail data) and go to an emergency (low) bit rate for downlink.

In an amazing stroke of luck, the NASA Deep Space Network and our control center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab were actually in contact with the spacecraft when this even occurred, so our ground team saw - in real-time - the double-bit error, the resulting C&DH computer reset, and the spacecraft commanding itself to "Go Safe."

The Go Safe maneuver itself resulted in a temporary loss of contact with our baby, but within about 90 minutes, New Horizons was back in communication with Earth, and shortly thereafter, the ground control team at APL had re-established commanding capability.

This was the first time New Horizons had commanded itself to Go Safe in flight, and both the spacecraft and the APL ground team responded expertly. As a result, we regained spacecraft control quickly, and we were back in a nominal operations configuration - taking science data again - in less than two days.

What actually caused the spacecraft C&DH memory to be corrupted with a two-bit error in a single C&DH address? We're still trying to determine that, but early indications are it was related to a burst of four bit errors within a short time that may have been due to RTG or natural space-environment radiation. Such multi-event bursts have not been uncommon in flight, but they have only once before resulted in a double-bit error in the Guidance and Control (not the C&DH) processor. The event is less critical in the G&C processor, because the spacecraft can operate through such an event, so no Go Safe was required.

Will such Go Safes happen again? Quite possibly. Can we find a way to better protect against such events so they don't occur as frequently as they might otherwise have? Maybe, and we're looking into it. Will the spacecraft take care of itself as it did this time? Our confidence is high that it will - extensive ground testing of the autonomy system and its Go Safe response paid off on March 19, and because of the test of the Go Safe function in flight last Monday, we have even greater confidence in our "autopilot" than we did from ground testing alone.

Of course, no one - and most particularly this mission PI - wanted such an in-flight test of contingency procedures. But New Horizons didn't ask our permission, and we got our Go Safe test, like it or not. What we learned as a result is that our flight system - both the silicon part in space and the carbon part in Maryland - responded with grace and precision to recover without causing any real injury.

This event is a reminder of the very real risks of space flight and the long journey we have ahead in order to accomplish our goal of reconnoitering the Pluto system at the far end of the planetary frontier. So we proceed with both confidence and a renewed sense of the fact that we are playing for keeps. We are now also back to downlinking Jupiter encounter data; back to taking Jovian magnetotail measurements; and back to preparing to initiate hibernation operations this summer.

Onward we go, into the cold, yawning abyss that is the outer solar system, with our eyes, minds and hearts firmly fixed on our goal of a history-making scientific exploration of worlds where no one has gone before!

Well, that's all I wanted to tell you about this time. I'll be back with more news in another update in April. In the meantime, keep on exploring, just as we do.

- Alan Stern
What I suspect happened was that the NH computer experienced a power spike induced from its high travelling speed thru Jupiter's magnetosphere. I'm rather surprised that this didn't happen before but equally pleased that the hardware and AI software was able to take the proper steps to prevent anything worse from happening...and the NH was very lucky that Mission Control was there live to see the problem from the very beginning and step it back to full operation.

PS I also like that remark about "our flight system - both the silicon part in space and the carbon part in Maryland..." This project depends just as much on people as it does on the hardware travelling past Jupiter.
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