New Horizon: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt

The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt
Voyage to an Unexplored Planet and a New Realm
The New Horizons mission will help us understand worlds at the
edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the
planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious
Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation.
The Journey
New Horizons launched on Jan. 19, 2006; it swung past Jupiter
for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and will
conduct a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and
its moons in summer 2015. Pluto closest approach is scheduled
for July 14, 2015. As part of an extended mission, the spacecraft is
expected to head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two
of the ancient, icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion
miles beyond Neptune’s orbit.
Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer basic
questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup
and atmospheres on these bodies.
New Science
The National Academy of Sciences
has ranked the exploration of the
Kuiper Belt – including Pluto – of
the highest priority for solar system
exploration. Generally, New Horizons
seeks to understand where Pluto and
its moons “fit in” with the other objects
in the solar system, such as the inner
rocky planets (Earth, Mars, Venus
and Mercury) and the outer
gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn,
Uranus and Neptune).
Pluto and its largest
moon, Charon, belong
to a third category
known as “ice dwarfs.” They have solid surfaces but,
unlike the terrestrial planets, a significant portion
of their mass is icy material.
Using Hubble Space Telescope images,
New Horizons team members
have discovered four previously
unknown moons of Pluto: Nix,
Hydra, Styx and Kerberos.
A close-up look at these worlds from a spacecraft promises to
tell an incredible story about the origins and outskirts of our solar
system. New Horizons also will explore – for the first time – how
ice dwarf planets like Pluto and Kuiper Belt bodies have evolved
over time.
The Need to Explore
The United States has been the first nation to reach every
planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New
Horizons is successful, it will allow the U.S. to complete the initial
reconnaissance of the solar system.
A Team Approach
Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, of Southwest Research
Institute (SwRI), leads the mission team. The Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) manages the mission
for NASA, and designed, built and operates the spacecraft. SwRI
is responsible for science payload operations, and data reduction
and archiving, and participates in the science team. The mission
team also includes KinetX, Inc. (navigation team), Ball Aerospace
Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space
Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford
University, Lockheed Martin Corporation, University
of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy and a
number of other firms, NASA centers and university
partners.
NASA’s First New Frontiers Mission
Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft and Pluto-Charon
Science Payload
•	Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color,
composition and thermal maps.
•	Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and
structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around
Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
•	 REX (Radio Science EXperiment): Measures atmospheric
composition and temperature; passive radiometer.
•	 LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager): Telescopic camera;
obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s far side and
provides high resolution geologic data.
•	 SWAP (Solar Wind Around Pluto): Solar wind and plasma
spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes
Pluto’s interaction with solar wind.
•	 PEPSSI (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science
Investigation): Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the
composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s
atmosphere.
•	 VBSDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter): Built and operated
by students at University of Colorado; measures the space dust
peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.
August 2014
PEPSSI
SWAP
VBSDC (Under
spacecraft;
not visible)
LORRI
Ralph
Alice
REX
Earth
Jupiter
Pluto
January 19, 2006:
New Horizons spacecraft lifts off
from Cape Canaveral, Florida — the
fastest spacecraft ever launched.
Fall 2014:
Reconnaissance begins
about 200 days before the
spacecraft’s closest approach
to Pluto.
2017–2020:
With NASA approval, the
spacecraft will be directed
toward one or more Kuiper
Belt Objects beyond Pluto.
Almost Ten Years and
Over Three Billion Miles …
Join the Adventure
New Horizons on the Web
http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu
2015:
Exploration of the Pluto
system begins with a 6-month
intensive study to understand these
mysterious worlds. On July 14,
New Horizons will make its closest
approach to Pluto and its moons.
February 2007:
New Horizons gets a gravity assist
from Jupiter and gathers unique,
exciting science data on the giant
planet and its moons.

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New Horizon: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt

  • 1. The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt Voyage to an Unexplored Planet and a New Realm The New Horizons mission will help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation. The Journey New Horizons launched on Jan. 19, 2006; it swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and will conduct a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. Pluto closest approach is scheduled for July 14, 2015. As part of an extended mission, the spacecraft is expected to head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two of the ancient, icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit. Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres on these bodies. New Science The National Academy of Sciences has ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt – including Pluto – of the highest priority for solar system exploration. Generally, New Horizons seeks to understand where Pluto and its moons “fit in” with the other objects in the solar system, such as the inner rocky planets (Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury) and the outer gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, belong to a third category known as “ice dwarfs.” They have solid surfaces but, unlike the terrestrial planets, a significant portion of their mass is icy material. Using Hubble Space Telescope images, New Horizons team members have discovered four previously unknown moons of Pluto: Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos. A close-up look at these worlds from a spacecraft promises to tell an incredible story about the origins and outskirts of our solar system. New Horizons also will explore – for the first time – how ice dwarf planets like Pluto and Kuiper Belt bodies have evolved over time. The Need to Explore The United States has been the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, it will allow the U.S. to complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system. A Team Approach Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), leads the mission team. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) manages the mission for NASA, and designed, built and operates the spacecraft. SwRI is responsible for science payload operations, and data reduction and archiving, and participates in the science team. The mission team also includes KinetX, Inc. (navigation team), Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin Corporation, University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy and a number of other firms, NASA centers and university partners. NASA’s First New Frontiers Mission Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft and Pluto-Charon
  • 2. Science Payload • Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color, composition and thermal maps. • Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). • REX (Radio Science EXperiment): Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer. • LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager): Telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s far side and provides high resolution geologic data. • SWAP (Solar Wind Around Pluto): Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes Pluto’s interaction with solar wind. • PEPSSI (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation): Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere. • VBSDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter): Built and operated by students at University of Colorado; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system. August 2014 PEPSSI SWAP VBSDC (Under spacecraft; not visible) LORRI Ralph Alice REX Earth Jupiter Pluto January 19, 2006: New Horizons spacecraft lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida — the fastest spacecraft ever launched. Fall 2014: Reconnaissance begins about 200 days before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto. 2017–2020: With NASA approval, the spacecraft will be directed toward one or more Kuiper Belt Objects beyond Pluto. Almost Ten Years and Over Three Billion Miles … Join the Adventure New Horizons on the Web http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons http://pluto.jhuapl.edu 2015: Exploration of the Pluto system begins with a 6-month intensive study to understand these mysterious worlds. On July 14, New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto and its moons. February 2007: New Horizons gets a gravity assist from Jupiter and gathers unique, exciting science data on the giant planet and its moons.