Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pluto Day!!!!! Part 1 (there's SO much to share)

By now  you *might* have heard about us on the news, seen us in the paper, on the interwebs, inundating facebook, twitter, and well everywhere. Perhaps someone out there is still using morse code to send the news.

"New Horizons Probe arrives at Pluto"
"-. . .-- / .... --- .-. .. --.. --- -. ... / .--. .-. --- -... . / .- .-. .-. .. ...- . ... / .- - / .--. .-.. ..- - ---"

(who knew the internet had a morse code translator?

I'd like to step you through my day on July 14th. It was absolutely amazing. And long. And something I will never forget.

I got here to APL at 5:45am so that I could make it to the science team meeting. I was in the room when the now famous "Pluto Heart" picture was revealed and to say there was a bit of excitement was an understatement. And after the first 'wow' there was discussion and gesturing and pointing and discoveries as they all took in what no one had ever seen before.

You can see a bunch of the scientist's pictures here and it's hard not to feel what they are feeling. To have worked so many years on this project. To have seen a world for the very first time. To know that they have years ahead of them to analyze the data. And to know that more is coming! Amazing.

After that fun we headed over to the K-center. A ton of people had shown up to celebrate the countdown to the actual Pluto closest approach (4.5 light time hours away). Since we didn't have telemetry (you know, because the spacecraft was a little busy) all of the Ops Team was able to join in the celebration.

Picture from We are hiding way in the back.
We left the stuffed animals in charge.
Then it was time to head back to the MOC because we had uplink tracks most of the day. Somewhere in between those and the super fun events to come that evening, I was contacted by the local paper for my county. I gave an interview and they sent a photographer down to take my picture out by the dish here at APL. Little did I know I would be the whole front page the next day. Here's a link if you care:

It was getting into the early evening and families and friends were starting to gather at the K-Center. Everyone was gathering to wait for the first telemetry back just before 9pm from the spacecraft to tell us that it survived the encounter and was holding all of the data we were so desperate for. I headed over to meet Matt and the kids to make sure they got their badges and such. The kids were proud to be wearing their Mission Operations t-shirts!

to be continued....................

Monday, July 13, 2015

One day left!

As of last night at 11:38 pm, the New Horizons spacecraft was exactly 1,000,000 miles from Pluto. So between that time and tomorrow morning at 7:30 am it will have closed that gap. That's fast people. Phew! Slow down already!

The most recent LORRI image from July 11th, amazing.

Also, Pluto and Charon together from a few days ago. :)

Also, here is a link to a great article from the Washington Post about our anomaly and the success of our recovery. This was in the print paper and I was named in one of the photos (make sure to click through the collection of pictures about APL).

Finally, here's an events update:

First the updated link for NASA television events,  you can also watch NASA TV online if you don't have the NASA channel.

But mostly, here's the short, fun version.

Tuesday morning at 7:50 am, the actual Pluto closest approach. We'll be watching a clock countdown to zero here at APL, and will be broadcast live. This will also have a NASA release of the most recent Pluto image, and I'm sure it's going to be amazing.

Tuesday night at 8:50 pm (full broadcast from 6:30 to 9 pm with interviews and stuff). First 'phone-home' from the spacecraft after the closest approach. We will have telemetry for about 15 minutes but no pictures. This will definitely have live-streaming of us in the MOC. Very exciting.

Wednesday some time: the closest-closest picture of Pluto will be released at some point. Looks like there will be a live media briefing at 3 pm.

On to Pluto!!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Safe!! ............and safe..........

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post about communications to a satellite 4.5 hours away by light to tell you that New Horizons decided to have her (him? it?) own fireworks on the 4th of July.

By design, the spacecraft detected a problem on it's prime computer and promptly switched over to the backup one and safed itself. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, but it still makes our heart skip a beat! And since it was only a few days before Encounter mode started and a recovery takes many days (because our Round Trip Light Time to get a command there and back is almost 9 hours!!), it was a BUSY weekend. Many of our people hardly slept from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning.

We are all happy to report that we are back on schedule and the spacecraft is NOW in Encounter Mode! We are starting to get science observations again, new pictures and scans, and the excitement is ramping up.


Who doesn't want to wear a New Horizons model for a hat?

And for now, here's the most recent LORRI picture, taken this morning.See the heart?