New Horizons Back To Normal On Tuesday Says NASA

Posted: Jul 6 2015, 7:27am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 6 2015, 7:29am CDT, in Latest Science News


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New Horizons back to Normal on Tuesday says NASA

After brief "scary" outage of New Horizons NASA says the spacecraft will be back to normal operations starting July 7.

On Saturday NASA lost contact to the New Horizons spacecraft. This was a scary one and a half hours for the NASA team operating New Horizons, but then New Horizons came back online. NASA has identified the issue that caused New Horizons to switch into save mode.

The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter. There are no software or hardware related defects.

“I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft,” said Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “Now – with Pluto in our sights – we’re on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold.”

Preparations are ongoing to resume the originally planned science operations on July 7 and to conduct the entire close flyby sequence as planned. The mission science team and principal investigator have concluded that the science observations lost during the anomaly recovery do not affect any primary objectives of the mission, with a minimal effect on lesser objectives. “In terms of science, it won’t change an A-plus even into an A,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

Adding to the challenge of recovery is the spacecraft’s extreme distance from Earth. New Horizons is almost 3 billion miles away, where radio signals, even traveling at light speed, need 4.5 hours to reach home. Two-way communication between the spacecraft and its operators requires a nine-hour round trip.

New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto is still planned for 7:49:57 a.m. EDT, July 14, 2015 according to the New Horizons Mission countdown.

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