The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sent a probe called, New Horizons on a journey to Pluto back in 2006. Unlike typical probes to far-off planets, New Horizon’s journey was to be punctuated by series of sleep-offs, downtime and space-hibernation.
New Horizon at the time of its journey, set out to explore Pluto, which was considered as a planet. However, it is now reclassified as a dwarf planet and is counted as one of the thousands of planets in the Kuiper Belt.
Kuiper Belt for the first time
As of current astronomical statistics, the objects in the Kuiper Belt may have been the building blocks of all planets. Therefore, New Horizon’s awakening from its e-slumber has created ripples in astronomical worlds.
Not only is the probe’s journey itself marked by so many scientific firsts, but its survey of the Kuiper Belt region will also begin a new era of astronomical research. By being the first man-made craft to journey thus far into space, New Horizon is expected to reveal more to astronomers.
New Horizons snooze and alarm
Pluto’s probe, New Horizon’s was pre-programmed to set itself into slumber and wake from time to time to forward its journey. Thus far, it has hibernated for over 1,873 days. The number of days range from 202 days to just over a month. In the times when the probe was inactive, it was programmed to collect cosmic dust and conduct science experiments. This helped in minimizes logistics as well as expensive flight control team forays. It also did not require costly dependence on communications network on space.
In many ways New Horizons has been a harbinger of many things. Pre-programmed for nocturnal cycles and experiments, has proved that such scientific parleys can be handled at minimal costs of operation itself.
As New Horizons travels closer to Pluto, scientists at NASA have less than six weeks to prepare for the most important part of the mission on Jan 15, 2015.