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Space Science

Pluto Mission Approved 17

JimPooley writes "The BBC are reporting here that a budget of $30 million has been approved by the US House and Senate conference committee to develop the mission to Pluto. They also agreed to fully fund future missions to Mars, and gave the go-ahead for a probe to orbit Europa."
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Pluto Mission Approved

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  • But, but... I'll be an old man before it even gets there!

    • But, but... I'll be an old man before it even gets there!

      But this isnt meant for you. You get to take your wife with you. And your children get to see pluto :)

  • by Kailden ( 129168 ) on Thursday November 08, 2001 @01:38PM (#2538457) Journal
    Trips to Goofy, Mickey, and Donald were cancelled due to budget constraints.

    Will Pluto be the ninth planet of the solar system when we fly-by?
  • by A Tin of Fish Steaks ( 416200 ) on Thursday November 08, 2001 @03:02PM (#2539127)
    There's a lot of good news packed into this article. In addition to the Pluto, Mars, and Europa missions, they also approved funding for the Next Generation Space Telescope [nasa.gov]. And they required NASA to keep the Hubble telescope operating until the NGST is in place.

    The NGST will have a primary mirror diameter at least twice that of Hubble, be stationed in higher orbit, and be capable of gathering data farther into the infrared spectrum. Pretty neat.

    • The NGST will ... be stationed in higher orbit, and be capable of gathering data farther into the infrared spectrum.

      Last I heard the NGST will be stationed far from the Sun (somewhere around Jupiter's orbit) to get away from the infrared "noise" of the interior solar system. Is this no longer the case?
      • I've oversimplified by saying "stationed in a higher orbit." It doesn't seem like they've finalized their plans yet, but they seem to prefer placing it in orbit about the 2nd Lagrangian point [esa.int] (about 1.5 million km from earth). That would significantly reduce its exposure to radiation from the earth, but doesn't get it away from the "interior" of the solar system, or anywhere near Jupiter.

        Perhaps you're referring to earlier, more ambitious plans that I'm not aware of?

        • I remember an issue of Sky & Telescope (or maybe it was Astronomy) from a couple of years ago that had a rundown of the (at the time) 4 competing designs - each from a different contractor. It was in that article that they mentioned stationing it near Jupiter. Since it will be optimised for infrared wavelengths it was important that it be made insensitive to the infrared radiation of the Sun. It was also to have a large shield behind the instrument for the same reason. Perhaps they now feel the shield will be sufficient and/or can save money by not having to boost it all the way to the outer solar system.
  • NASA Links (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ethidium ( 105493 )
    Here are the URLS for NASA's web sites on the projects in question:

    Posse (Pluto mission): http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/proposed/posse.ht ml

    Mars 2005 and beyond:
    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/proposed/mars20 05 andbeyond.html

    Mars Exploration:

    Europa Orbiter:
  • by wnknisely ( 51017 ) <wnknisely&gmail,com> on Thursday November 08, 2001 @06:47PM (#2540267) Homepage Journal
    Delighted space scientists have hailed the approval of missions to Pluto and Jupiter's moon Europa, on which there could be life.

    As exciting as the news is that we're finally going to try to hook up with Pluto - the idea that we're going to look more closely at Europa is probably going to be more important scientifically in the long run.

    Assume Pluto is just a particularly large denizen of the Kuiper belt - interesting primarily because of its close relationship with Charon, an object roughly its size... We can see something like this basically anytime we get a comet in our neighborhood.

    Europa, on the other hand, if it truly has liquid H20 under that ice on the surface might well be the best near candidate for life in the solar system.

    I figure if life can survive at the sulfer vents deep in the mid-ocean trenches, Europa should be a relative sure bet.

    If there is life - and it isn't terribly similar to ours, then we win (life is likely in the Universe, and the Copernican principle is upheld). If there is life - and it's similar to terrestial life - then we have good support for a pan-spermia theory and we can get off our duffs and start looking harder for other life in the Universe.

    Excellent news.
  • Timing. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Man of E ( 531031 )
    the mission to Pluto cannot launch until 2006
    Mission times, depending on the launch vehicle selected, will be from 10-12 years
    any further delay in sending a probe would have meant losing the chance of seeing Pluto's atmosphere before it froze and condensed in 2015

    Now add the years. Launch in 2006, + 10 mission years = 2016. By then, Pluto will be nothing but a great big block of ice. Did NASA forget how to add? Am I missing something?

    • Re:Timing. (Score:2, Informative)

      No, they didn't. The idea that Pluto's atmosphere will freeze out over the next few decades is apparently probably not accurate. The leader of my research group has one of the two competing Pluto mission proposals, and he shared that finding with us a few months ago at a group meeting. Another interesting thing they found was that you can always go to Pluto for a reasonable price, propulsion wise. There are at least one or two gravity assists every year from Venus alone. Jupiter is preferable, of course, but not required.

      The really neat thing from my point of view is that no matter which team wins the mission, people in my department will be on the science team.
    • "Mission Time" and "time to get there" aren't nessecarily the same things.

      The original plan of the Pluto-Kuiper Express involved mission time beyond the fly-by with pluto. So the 10-12 years is likely including time AFTER its pluto encounter. Hence it would likely be 8-9 years to pluto, then 2-3 years beyond that.

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