Archives » January 20th, 2006

January 20, 2006

Off The Pad

New Horizons launched successfully yesterday, and it’s now well on its way to Pluto. Next year, in February, it’s flying past Jupiter, and that will give the team a chance to test out all the instruments and give the spacecraft a trial run at planetary flyby. And then, after that, it’s a long, lonely eight-year flight to get to Pluto. Once it gets there it only has a few hours of frenzied activity to study the planet and its moons before it zips past and heads into the unknowns at the outer edge of the solar system. The hope is that there will be other KBOs that just happen to be in its flight path, so it can check those out too. But nobody really knows for sure what will happen after the Pluto flyby, except that New Horizons will keep on getting further away from Earth, just like Pioneer 10 and 11 and the Voyagers.

Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society has some excellent coverage of the launch and the first 24 hours of flight on her blog.