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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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InSight Spacecraft of NASA Reaches Halfway to Mars

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November

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NASA's InSight spacecraft crosses halfway mark to Mars. Pixabay

NASA’s InSight spacecraft that is en route to Mars, has passed the halfway mark to its destination and all its instruments are working well, the US space agency said.

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft, which crossed the halfway mark on August 6 is expected to land on Mars on November 26 to study the Red Planet’s deep interior, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

The spacecraft has now covered 277 million km since its launch 107 days ago and in another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million km and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region.

Earlier the lander’s launch and landing were scheduled around Mars’ closest approach to Earth that occurred on July 31.

However, it was delayed by the Martian storm that has engulfed the Planet and has cut off communication with another NASA robot, the Mars rover Opportunity.

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InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. (IANS)

NASA engineers used this long travel time to plan, activate and check spacecraft subsystems vital to cruise, landing and surface operations, including the highly sensitive science instruments, the statement said.

The instruments aboard the spacecraft include a seismometer, which will be used to detect quakes on Mars, and a self-hammering probe that will measure the amount of heat escaping from the planet’s interior.

It also has cameras to take a “selfie” of the mission’s equipment.

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“If you are an engineer on InSight, that first glimpse of the heat shield blanket, harness tie-downs and cover bolts is a very reassuring sight as it tells us our Instrument Context Camera is operating perfectly. The next picture we plan to take with this camera will be of the surface of Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November. (IANS)

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