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December 1, 2014

Waking Up on Pluto’s Doorstep

New Horizons Full Trajectory

Our long cruise out from Earth to Pluto is ending.

It’s hard for me to believe, but after almost nine years of flight, we are literally on Pluto’s doorstep, on schedule, in good health, and on course.

In fact, at the end of this week, on Saturday, Dec. 6, New Horizons will awaken from its final segment of hibernation on its historic, 3-billion-plus mile cruise from Earth to Pluto.
(For a countdown clock to wake up, bookmark: http://www.seeplutonow.com/).

After wake-up comes five weeks of “pregame” work, as we prepare and put New Horizons through a few final tests before the encounter. Then, on Jan. 15, we begin what we came here for: the start of Pluto encounter data-collection. I’ll have more to say about early-2015 operations in my next PI Perspective blog.

Here’s Your Chance to Vote on the Wake-Up Graphic

For now, I want to let you know that our wake up mantra, “On Pluto’s Doorstep,” has been beautifully imagined by planetary scientist Alex Parker, a member of the crazy-multitalented New Horizons postdoc team we’ve assembled at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Alex has produced the two “Pluto’s Doorstep” concepts reproduced here. But we can’t decide which we like best.

Pluto Doorstep Option A

On Pluto's Doorstep: Option A (click to enlarge)

Pluto Doorstep Option B

On Pluto's Doorstep: Option B (click to enlarge)

Since about half our team likes the first image and half our team prefers the second, I thought it would be cool for those of you who follow New Horizons, as well as the general public, help us determine the “People’s Choice” graphic. How? Just cast your vote at http://www.alexharrisonparker.com/plutopoll/#Poll.

But do it soon! Voting on lasts five days, ending at midnight Eastern Time on Friday, Dec. 5, less than a day before New Horizons reports its wake-up to Earth on Saturday night.

I hope you’ll vote, and encourage family, friends and colleagues to vote too! We’ll let you know on wake-up day – Saturday – how the vote turned out.

We’re arriving. Our time is finally near.

Thanks for following us across the expanse of the solar system and into the unknown. Who knows what we’ll find? That’s a big part of the excitement of the exploration of new worlds!

So until I write again, I hope you’ll keep exploring – just as we do!

-Alan Stern