Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space

With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto 128

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-the-mi-go-and-the-terran-federation-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes In one year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto after over 8 years of travel. "Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we're on track," says Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission. As the New Horizons spacecraft gets closer to Pluto, we will begin getting the clearest images we've ever gotten. "A great deal of planning went into this mission. But in case you're wondering, the New Horizons team did not plan for Pluto to be downgraded to a dwarf planet in the same year as the launch. That didn't change anything for Alan Stern. Some planetary scientists still dispute Pluto's planet status, and Stern says he'll always think of Pluto as a planet. Either way, it's a distant realm ripe for exploration. Scientists don't know exactly what they will see there. And that's the exciting part. 'When we first sent missions to Jupiter, no one expected to find moons that would have active volcanoes. And I could go down a long list of how often I've been surprised by the richness of nature,' Stern says."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:37AM (#47448973)

    Right now the astronomers on the ground are rehearsing everything about the encounter, because it takes four hours for any signal to reach New Horizons and even longer to transmit anything at 1kb/s. The entire Pluto flyby will be automated: they do not have any control over what the spacecraft will see or be able to focus on at the moment of its closest approach to Pluto. The sheer number of things that have to happen at precisely the right time on this mission is insane. It's a good thing they've had a decade to pepare for this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:45AM (#47449045)

    Here's a hint: no one's been there yet.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:51AM (#47449083)
    It is what it is, no matter what you call it.
  • by neilo_1701D (2765337) on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:54AM (#47449111)

    What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

    Well, it's a pretty cheap mission at $650 million over 15 years.

    But the most exciting thing about the mission is the clues it gives to the early history of the solar system.

    You're right: Europa and Io are very interesting places to visit, especially considering the possibility for life there, and no doubt those missions are being planned. But for now, we're a year out from Pluto and about to discover what we're yet to discover.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2014 @11:01AM (#47449167)

    You know, it's funny, as someone who grew up with nine planets including Pluto, I never understood this desire to keep Pluto a planet. Even an elementary school student could see it was a bit of an oddball compared to the other eight, with a highly eccentric and tilted orbit, a dimunitive size, and recurring announcements every few years of possible discovery of other tiny planet like things out in a similarly distant orbit. I was almost relieved when it was got a new categorization. Unless you're somehow tied to the idea of "nine" as being a special number for our count of planets, but even then, discovering new planets would have changed that number anyway, just in an upwards direction.

    But either way, sending a probe to Pluto is just as exciting, now matter what Pluto's classification. I think it would be at least as amazing if we sent one to Eris, or even a random asteroid.

  • Re:Unfortunately (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Monday July 14, 2014 @11:21AM (#47449313)

    Exploring Uranus would reveal it contains lots of methane gas.

  • ", but I can also see the appeal in keeping things simple."
    The universe is not simple. AS we find out more, classification become more precise.
    To do otherwise is to embrace ignorance at the cost of discovery.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2014 @01:18PM (#47450157)

    What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

    Because every time we go there, WE FIND OUT SOMETHING.

    We find something we HAD NO IDEA was happening.
    Look at Io for the first example from the voyager series.

    And every time we go again, we bring commentators like you with us.
    That part is predictable.

    This time Europa was more expensive than our last look at pluto's atmosphere before it freezes, so.. pluto is is.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.

Working...