Thank goodness it has been reactivated out of slumber following its hibernation enroute to Pluto in deep space, NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft is now set for deployment to Pluto anytime from now.
Space researchers and astronomers are having a difficult time classifying Pluto as either a planet or not, but its little size and distance make it the farthest from Earth at 2.7 to 4.7 billion miles away from Earth. This far distance makes Pluto a difficult planet, or space body, to observe by astronomers, and even for powerful and sophisticated space telescopes like the Hubble Telescope.
NASA’s New Horizon was launched on a mission to Pluto in January 2006, but then went into sleep mode when it journeyed out of the edge of our solar system for the better part of the past eight years. Awoken from sleep by scientists this past Saturday, New Horizon is ready to resume on its journey to Pluto for the last 162 million leg of its journey.
It is expected that New Horizon will pass close to Pluto at a range of 6,200 miles on or around July 14, 2015 – which is its closest flyby – and this would enable its onboard cameras to shoot higher resolution images of the five moons of Pluto and of Pluto itself. The images will be compressed and then transmitted back to Earth – because the uncompressed images might take nine months to arrive to Super-computers on Earth.
However, NASA is still issuing commands to New Horizon in deep space to ensure that it is in the right “frame of mind” to continue on the rest of its trip to Pluto. The spacecraft might move on onto the outer edge of the heliosphere if all goes to plan after its Pluto destination – and it might use the paths already used by Voyager 1 and 2 in the past.