NASA Video Simulates How Landing on Pluto Would Look

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 - 7:01PM
NASA
Solar System
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 - 7:01PM
NASA Video Simulates How Landing on Pluto Would Look
It may not be a planet anymore, but that doesn't mean Pluto is out of our reach. So when NASA asked, "What would it be like to actually land on Pluto?" - the New Horizon's spacecraft answers. 

Paired with inspiring, dream-like electro music, a new video released on the NASA YouTube page shows a supercut of over 100 images taken from New Horizon's six-week flyby of Pluto, slightly enhanced with color. Placed in rapid succession just so, it's almost like touching down for a gentle landing on the icy planet's surface.

New Horizon's Principal Investigator Alan Stern comments on NASA's website:
Opening quote
"Just over a year ago, Pluto was just a dot in the distance. This video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an approaching spacecraft and see Pluto grow to become a world, and then to swoop down over its spectacular terrains as if we were approaching some future landing."
Closing quote


The video starts by showing a tiny dot (Pluto) being orbited by an even tinier dot (Charon), and then the beautiful Pluto rotates slowly closer into view in stop motion. As we zoom in close, the Pluto basin "Sputnik Planum" comes into view, and the camera appears to gently touch down.


As the video's description explains, in order to create this stunning mini movie, "mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible." This means that scientists took the plethora of black and white images they had available, and used what they knew about Pluto to translate the spectrum of greys and whites and blacks into shades of color.

The video ends with the words, "New Horizons completes the first reconnaissance of all the classical planets, and is on its way to explore another even more distant world in 2019." This refers to the spaceship's upcoming visit to 2014 MU69, which is 1 billion miles beyond Pluto and completely uncharted territory. 

Unfortunately, though stunning, this landing is impossible in real life, as it took nine and a half years covering over three billon miles to reach Pluto. The New Horizon mission launched in January 2006, and the images used for the video were taken in 2015, as the spacecraft passed 7,800 miles from the surface of Pluto. But for a simulation, the videographers certainly rose to the challenge, as the whole minute and forty-seven seconds is an immersive experience that armchair spacefarers will want to watch over and over again. 

Image: NASA
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