Sunday, June 28, 2015


Our star-studded status is ever building; from 90210's The Peach Pit to our destination Pluto, check out Ian Ziering talking for NASA:

But now you're asking, what can I do to be a part of this momentous event? Where can I watch the goings on? How can I see Sarah and the rest of the Flight Control team LIVE on television? Well, I'm here to give you the answers.

Our period of closest approach really spans from July 7th through the 16th. This is our Encounter Phase. I imagine there will be many beautiful pictures that will come out between now and then. But the actual closest approach to the planet happens on July 14th.

So, the wonderful people in our Education and Outreach department have put together a PlutoPalooza toolkit for everyone to access. Click here. On this link you will find informational videos, stickers you can print, posters, info graphics, you name it. There will be tons of these parties being held around the world; at museums, NASA centers, astronomy clubs, or even YOUR LIVING ROOM if you so choose.

The spacecraft will actually be flying past the planet at closest approach at about 7:30 am on the 14th. However, because it will be actually taking data (instead of talking to Earth) and the one-way light time (the time it talks the signal to reach us) is about 4.5 hours, we won't actually have our first contact again until about 8:30 pm that evening.

MUY IMPORTANTE: NASA will have a live telecast on their channel (check your local listings) that will include broadcasting from the auditorium here at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory with interviews and such AND live streaming from inside the Missions Ops Center (that's me!) from 6 to 9 pm on July 14th. This is the time to watch, and have a PlutoPalooza in your own living room. (For DirecTV users it's channel 346 but you must be an HD subscriber, so mom and dad you might need to go to someone's house). This content will also be available live on the NASA website, but I imagine you may have a harder time getting in on that.

That's all I have for now. Up next time, how do we talk to something that's 2.9 million miles away? Hint: with some very big equipment.

Monday, June 22, 2015

3 weeks, and one planet to go

Three weeks to go!!!! Check out the short video below, it's a quick glimpse at how far we've come since our first planetary trip (Venus) in 1962. 

And the pictures keep increasing in resolution, I should have more soon.

Here's one from June 21st of Pluto and Charon from the LORRI camera, it was the most recent one I saw on I know it still looks so fuzzy but you just can't believe how exciting this is given the 4 or 5 pixel pictures we had for so long.

And finally, if you have time please check out this video called "The Year of Pluto". It's an hour long so you need some time but it talks about all aspects of the mission. If you want to see me in particular, I'm at 26:00, 27:10, 28:50 and minutes 40 to 43-ish (not that I was taking notes). Apparently though I do all kind of engineering at my job, I'm only good on camera for taking care of our hibernation bear and eating cake. Famous!

Up on the next blog, information on how YOU can participate in closest approach. It involves something called a "Plutopalooza".  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6 weeks to go!!

New Horizons is screaming along towards Pluto and Charon, we have only 8 6!! weeks until the encounter (apparently I started this post 2 weeks ago, sigh). I find myself getting more and more excited; there's nothing like seeing articles about your day to day work on CNN or having a slot on your calendar as a reminder that the New York Times will be coming by for an interview (and don't do anything stupid or infamous while they watch you through the glass).

As an example of what our little spacecraft is doing, here's some pictures of Pluto and it's moons. You can see how the scientists process the images coming down from New Horizons; for the first time we are seeing the tiniest moons of Pluto. You can read the article here.

We also were able to see that *maybe* Pluto has ice caps from this video.

In other space news close to me, MESSENGER finally gave up the ghost and crashed into the planet Mercury, having run out of fuel and the will to fight gravity. I was in the Ops Center for the final transmission with gobs of others and it was really nifty. See the pictures below, on the left is the first picture it took of the Mercury surface after achieving orbit, and then it's final picture before impact on the right. MESSENGER was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and was able to full map the planet, seeing parts unknown to human eyes. You can visit for more info and cool pictures.

More to come, including my trip out to California to visit the big 70-m antenna!!