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NASA probe beams ‘phone call’ after Pluto fly-by

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photo credit- NASA

Washington, After completing the historic fly-by of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons probe has successfully beamed a pre-programmed “phone call” — a 15-minute series of status messages — to mission scientists on Earth.

US President Barack Obama congratulated the NASA team for this historic feat on Twitter.

“Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks @NASA – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership,” he tweeted.

The mission scientists have now instructed the probe to spend the time gathering the maximum amount of data and not communicating with Earth until it was beyond the Pluto system.

“We have inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. 

“This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential,” he added. 

The “phone call” was beamed back to scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland through NASA’s Deep Space Network.

“With the successful flyby of Pluto, we are celebrating the capstone event in a golden age of planetary exploration,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.

“While this historic event is still unfolding — with the most exciting Pluto science still ahead of us — a new era of solar system exploration is just beginning,” he added.

New Horizons is collecting so much data it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.

Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object visited by a mission from Earth.

New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.

“The New Horizons flyby completes the first era of planetary reconnaissance, a half century long endeavor that will forever be a legacy of our time,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.

(IANS)

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Rocket Lab is Set To Launch 10 NASA CubeSats

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space

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Kepler, NASA, tissue
Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay

In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

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They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted. (IANS)