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Spacecraft Set to Rendezvous With Pluto Briefly Goes Silent

Update, July 5: Teams have sorted out what happened on board the New Horizons spacecraft, and normal science operations will resume July 7. “The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby,” NASA said. Impacts to science data should be minimal, and no similar sequences are planned between now and the closest approach to Pluto, which will happen on July 14. (Read the full statement here.)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is hurtling toward a historic rendezvous with Pluto in just 10 days, briefly lost contact with Earth around 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern time today. For about 80 minutes, teams on the ground couldn’t reach the spacecraft, which is currently 11 million kilometers from the frosted dwarf planet and its complex system of moons. (In fact, New Horizons is so far away that it takes messages traveling at the speed of light 4.5 hours to get there.)

It’s not clear exactly what happened yet, but an on-board anomaly sent New Horizons into safe mode. Though it’s not the first time the spacecraft has slipped into safe mode, the proximity to the Pluto encounter makes the situation considerably more stressful. New Horizons has since regained contact with mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. There, scientists and engineers are working to understand what happened, and  to restore the spacecraft to full operations. That could take between one and several days.

Though the brief loss of communication means no science data can be collected during this time period, National Geographic has learned that the team isn’t in danger of losing either the spacecraft or the flyby — which is extremely good news, for at least a million reasons.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

13 thoughts on “Spacecraft Set to Rendezvous With Pluto Briefly Goes Silent

  1. Could you please list the first few of the million reasons — 500 would be enough.

    ND: New Horizons recorded about 50GB of data during its Pluto flyby, so that’s many billion right there, and we haven’t even gotten to the part about exploring our solar system and its worlds.

  2. Mercury as well the other planets in the solar system was born from the Sun because all planets centripetal acceleration fulfills the rule: g=(V.C)/R ln(1+V/C) where R – is the distance between the planet and the Sun, V=w.R where w – is the angular velocity of the equatorial area of the Sun. See USM part I http://www.kanevuniverse.com Obtained result coincides with the same acceleration estimated by the law: g=G.M/r^2 Second important suggestion is that the Sun in fact synthesis all nature element until uranium, but not only iron how was estimated so far. It is so because of the essence of the field, see again Part I USM. So the core of the Sun is contains from super dense and therefore with huge gravitational attraction material – nuclear chain, most probably from uranium nuclei, see joromachine http://www.kanevuniverse.com and with super strong common magnetic moment. That is why the Sun changes its magnetic poles for about 11 years or so – because of the interaction between this core and the plasma surrounding it. How it is seen this core reminds the so called “neutron star”, which of course hasn’t any physical means because such creation is impossible, as well this is in force about the so called “black hole”. Such core possesses any star, even any planet but the difference is only in the size of the core – in smallest objects this core can be only centimeter’s radius (see again USM and essence of the field). The size of the core of our Sun is around 70 km in radius (see USM). For example proof about this assertion we can find out in rings and moons of Saturn, in their different direction of revolving (some of them), which shows that the core of Saturn also changes its polarization, similarly to the Sun, but very slowly, because the Saturn is far smaller and far cooler than the Sun. Now we can suppose that Mercury (because it was born from the Sun last in line) has most large quantity of heaviest elements in comparison with the rest of the planets and that is why Mercury is most dense object in the solar system. Maybe the core of Mercury is responsible for volcanic activity there and maybe it is in force about all planets?! G.Kanev

  3. Very refreshing to know the strides mankind has made in pushing the envelope regarding space travel. Kudos to NASA for giving us hope in the quest for another habitable planet.

  4. Universe do not belong to any one. Every effort done by scientist of ant country must appreciated. NASA doing marvelous job in this field. ISS is he best example of human effort.

  5. I am totally motivated to learn the math of orbital dynamics. This science of discovery has me transfixed with anticipation. I’m glued to the news until the flyby.

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