New Horizons Recovers from Glitch, Still on Track for Pluto Flyby

Monday, 06 July 2015 - 1:36PM
NASA
Astronomy
Solar System
Monday, 06 July 2015 - 1:36PM
New Horizons Recovers from Glitch, Still on Track for Pluto Flyby
Over the holiday weekend, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft suffered a glitch that nearly threw the entire mission off course. But after some emergency troubleshooting, the probe is ready to resume normal operations, and will stay on track to complete its historic Pluto flyby on the originally scheduled date, July 14th. 

On Independence Day, an unknown anomaly caused New Horizons to enter "safe mode." NASA was left in suspense for several hours, as New Horizons is nearly three billion miles away, so radio signals take at least 4.5 hours to reach Earth. They ultimately found that the error resulted from a timing flaw in the command sequence during a sensitive operation.

The flaw was particularly difficult to detect, but after several hours of analysis, NASA was able to determine the underlying cause and conclude that the anomaly wasn't the result of an overarching hardware or software flaw. The operation was part of preparing the probe for the Pluto flyby, and as it will not need to be conducted again in the next week, NASA doesn't anticipate any further problems.

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"I'm pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft," NASA's Jim Green said in a statement. "Now – with Pluto in our sights – we're on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold."
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Planned science operations will resume on July 7, and preparations are ongoing to ready the spacecraft to make its closest approach to Pluto. On July 14, New Horizons will perform a flyby at only 7,750 miles from Pluto's surface, after spending the last nine years traveling the three billion miles to the former ninth planet. The mission is expected to yield groundbreaking discoveries about the mostly mysterious dwarf planet, and according to New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, may even reveal that Pluto has been a planet all along. We suspected as much.
Science
Space
NASA
Astronomy
Solar System

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