New Horizons completed a quick, two-week maintenance wake-up on Jan. 17 and is back in hibernation. We’ll wake the craft again in mid-June for our last active checkout, lasting about 10 weeks, on the journey to Pluto. We’ll hibernate again from late August through early December, and then wake our baby up for the encounter we built her for.
Having launched New Horizons in January 2006, we’ve been in flight now for over eight years – longer than most space missions last – and we are finally nearing “showtime.”
By this time next year, we will be executing the earliest phases of our Pluto system encounter. Closest approach is now just 17 months away! That may seem like a while to you, but after almost 97 months in flight, it’s just around the corner to us. Most people may not appreciate it, but 2014 is the last year, forever, that Pluto and its moons will be known only as points of light or smudgy images to humankind.
Beginning this summer, we will take you along with us more intimately on our preparations to explore the Pluto system.
The stories we’re going to tell as encounter approaches, culminates and recedes will cover more than the progress of our encounter flight plan and the data we’ll receive —though those elements will certainly be covered well too.