Pluto probe wakes up one last time

New Horizons at Pluto

New Horizons woke up six months ahead of its Pluto encounter, seen in this artist’s illustration.

Guest post by Christopher Crockett

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, scheduled to fly by Pluto on July 14, came out of hibernation for the last time to get ready for the final six months of its cruise to the dwarf planet. Mission controllers received word from the probe on December 6 at 9:53 p.m. Eastern time that it was awake and ready to work.

Currently 4.6 billion kilometers from Earth, New Horizons has spent much of its nine-year journey in hibernation with most of its electronics switched off. While mission controllers have previously woken the probe several times to run tests, it will now stay active for the remainder of its mission. Over the next several weeks, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s systems and prepare for the start of science observations on January 15.

More Stories from Science News on Planetary Science

From the Nature Index

Paid Content