NASA’s first probe sent to Pluto – the New Horizons spacecraft – has came out of hibernation after completing the journey of three billion miles in nine years.
A confirmation was given by the spacecraft operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland at 9:53 pm EST. According to them the pre-programmed New Horizon has switched its mode from “hibernation” to “active”.
The space probe was launched on January 16, 2006 from Cape Canaveral. Since then it has covered the distance of three billion miles and has reached closer to Pluto. According to NASA, the probe will encounter with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt in July 2015.
The probe was in hibernation mode since August. Overall it had 18 separate hibernation periods from mid 2007 to late 2014. These periods ranged from 36 days to 202 days in length. Hibernation turned off most of its system to reduce wear and tear of the components and to reduce the risk of system failures.
“Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons- – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia,” said the US space agency.
The operators will spend next few weeks checking if the spacecraft is working properly. They will also guide the spacecraft through its flight. New Horizon will begin with Pluto observation from January 2015.
With a total mass of 31 kg, the New Horizons spacecraft carries seven scientific instruments that include imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolor camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers and a space-dust detector.
New Horizon will reach the closest to Pluto on 14th of July 2015. However, lots of highlights are expected before it. NASA expects to get better pictures of Pluto and its moon than clicked using Hubble Telescope.