November 22, 2006

A Season for Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving and I just want to wish everyone a great Thanksgiving holiday. We sure have no shortage of things to be thankful for on this project.

A year ago today we had a spacecraft on the ground in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, a booster rocket with RP-1 tank problems, an autonomy system that was considered fragile, and dozens of other like issues to deal with just to get to launch. In fact, exactly a year ago today, New Horizons Project Manager Glen Fountain and I were in Daytona and other central Florida locales with KSC folks and New Horizons Program Executive Kurt Lindstrom talking to the editorial board of the local paper to allay concerns about the upcoming January nuclear launch we were planning. Fueling the spacecraft with hydrazine was just around the corner, and we had an appointment at LC-41 just three weeks away. Everything about flight ops seemed impending but somehow theoretical with that big launch of a new Atlas V variant looming in our future.

Today we're 4.4 Astronomical Units from the Sun and 5.3 AU from the good Earth, speeding on to another appointment — this one at Jupiter — just under 100 days hence. Our spacecraft is right on course and in fine shape, as is its scientific payload. We have an operations team that has settled in and impressed people across the project and at NASA with their skills. We have more fuel aboard than anyone rightfully deserved to expect, and our spacecraft has flown 300-plus days without a single "Go Safe." And these things just scratch the surface of what we can be thankful for.

So, from the PI to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for all you have done and all you are doing to make this dream mission come true. I hope you all have a great, long weekend with family and friends while New Horizons quietly passes through solar conjunction.

Best Wishes,
Alan Stern