NASA's Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
April 28, 2006
New Horizons in Space: The First
April 29, 2006, marks another milestone
in New Horizons' historic journey to Pluto - the
spacecraft's 100th day of flight.
"It's been a good flight so far, and we're working
to keep it that way," says New Horizons Mission
Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns
Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel,
Since launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station on Jan. 19, it has also been a busy flight.
Among many activites, the mission team has conducted
three small trajectory correction maneuvers, which
exercised the spacecraft's propulsion system and
refined New Horizons' path toward Jupiter for a
gravity assist and science studies in February
2007; upgraded the software that controls the spacecraft's
flight computers; and carried out rigorous tests
proving that all seven onboard science instruments
survived launch and have their basic functions.
Having passed the orbit of Mars on April 7, the
spacecraft continues to zoom toward the outer solar
system, moving about the Sun at more than 69,570
miles (111,960 kilometers) per hour.
"On a voyage to Pluto that will take nearly a
decade, 100 days might not seem like much," says
Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from
the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "But the team has accomplished a lot in that short
time, and the mission is going exceptionally well.
Now we're working hard to calibrate the scientific
payload and prepare the science instruments and
spacecraft for our encounter with Jupiter, just
10 months ahead."
The team will begin rehearsing for that trip through
the Jupiter system - putting the spacecraft and
instruments through the actual paces of the flyby
- later this year, after the science payload is
fully commissioned this summer.