N.H. Jupiter Flyby

There’s a new P.I. Perspective up at the New Horizons Web Site. That’s the place where Alan Stern posts his news, views and comments on the on-going mission at irregular intervals (approximately once every six weeks).

This time he reminded me that the Jupiter Flyby is coming up quickly, and in fact, starts about now. The spacecraft will be at closest approach to the planet on February 28th, and will keep the P.I., scientists and engineers busy until June. It’s interesting that this flyby will give scientists a chance to recover most of the information that was lost when the Galileo spacecraft was unable to fully open it’s high-gain antenna.

[Not that the Galileo mission was a failure – far from it. But there was a significant drop in the data-rate and total amount of data returned by that mission. Even though N.H. will be spending only days and hours at Jupiter, it’s data gathering power and data return rate is significant, and will fill in much of the science that was not gotten by its predecessor.]

After that, New Horizons will spend most of it’s time in hibernation. It will be monitored continually by the onboard “autonomy” software, (yeah – the stuff I was busy testing for eighteen months) and woken only every two months or so for a quick checkout. That is, assuming all goes well (or, more accurately, nominally). I understand that after Jupiter there will be very little happening on the ground except for software enhancement and testing, and not very much of that.

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