Long Time Comin’, Long Time Gone

Apologies for the infrequent posting, but the time leading up to launch can be very busy. It’s been busy, but today we launched. And it was gorgeous.

Weather (winds, actually) did delay the Jan. 17 date, which had already been a delay from the original Jan. 11 date. The extra day has been reported in the press as being due to a power failure here in Maryland, but the reports slightly mislead. The outage was not due to weather, although weather may have contributed. I was there when the lights went out (at about 5:25 AM on Wednesday), and the early reports were that a piece of electrical equipment at the lab failed catastrophically, went ‘boom’, and took some other pieces in the plant with it. It happens.

But after about 15 years of planning and several generations of Kuiper missions that failed to gain the necessary $upport, New Horizons finally made it off the ground. As I type this, it’s only about two hours until the 1000 lb. spacecraft reaches the distance of the moon, and only about one year until it has it’s encounter with Jupiter. Once there the science instruments get their first real test. And after that, it’s another 2 and a half billion miles to Pluto, Charon and points outward. I do hope I’m around to see the results.

A small aside: on Tuesday we heard a repeat of a December 2005 press conference, in which Alan Stern (principal investigator) mentioned that there was a surprise aboard. Today I found out that the spacecraft carries the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet in 1930. Tombaugh died in 1997.

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Explore posts in the same categories: New Horizons, Space

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