December 30, 2015
The year 1905 was said to be Albert Einstein’s annus mirabilis – his “miracle year”– in which he published four important papers that set the stage for modern physics. Just over a century later, that phrase comes to my mind when I think of 2015 and New Horizons; it’s been our miracle year. Just consider, in the last 12 months:
And looking forward to 2016, there is going to be a lot more in store for this team and our plucky little spacecraft. New Horizons will be sending us fresh images and other data about the Pluto system every week until October or November of the new year. It’ll also be continually taking and sending back new data on the deep Kuiper Belt environment it’s flying in. Meanwhile, on the ground, our science team will be analyzing all that new data and reporting major results in technical journals like Science and Nature and Icarus, and at scientific meetings like the upcoming Lunar and Planetary Science Conference this March.
Other major activities for us in 2016 include a complete post-Pluto summertime calibration campaign for all seven scientific instruments aboard the spacecraft, a likely course correction en route to our KBO flyby target, a proposal in April to NASA to conduct the Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM), and – if NASA approves, and hopefully – a start to KEM science and 2019 flyby planning in the fall!
So as we close 2015, our annus mirabilis, we want to thank you for following us, for supporting us, and for helping make New Horizons and the exploration of Pluto possible through your support of NASA.
Well, that’s it for now, I’ll write again soon. Until then, I hope you’ll keep exploring – just as we do.
Happy New Year, 2016!