New Horizons is flying by Pluto on Tuesday, July 14! But we won’t hear a word from it… This is Pluto in a Minute.
After nine and a half years and 3.26 billion miles, New Horizons is finally making its closest flyby of Pluto tomorrow, on Tuesday July 14, but, the spacecraft will be silent all day. Because, of all the moving part on New Horizons, the antenna is not one of them. The New Horizons spacecraft features a large dish antenna, and when its facing the Earth it can do one of two things: it can either receive commands as an uplink or downlink data for scientists to analyze. However, because the antenna can’t move, the spacecraft can ever be pointing its antenna towards the Earth or looking at Pluto to take observations. In short, the antenna can’t go like this, so the entire spacecraft has to go like this.
And because the spacecraft is going to be really close to Pluto for just about 22 hours, the mission team decided they much rather it be gathering data than talk to the Earth.
And the spacecraft is going to be doing a lot of looking. The New Horizons spacecraft will gather spectroscopic data as well as colour images as well as hi-res black and white images. So, when it does talk to the Earth again after the flyby, we’re going to have some amazing views of Pluto.
For more on Pluto be sure to check out the New Horizons websites and tweet your questions with the hashtag #PlutoFlyby. And come back here tomorrow for more Pluto in a Minute.