back to article Mission to Pluto faces DEEP SPACE DEBRIS PERIL

The additional moons discovered around Pluto are putting the visiting spacecraft New Horizons at risk, prompting mission organisers to plot bail-out trajectories and consider turning shields to maximum. Not that New Horizons has any shields as such, but it has got a radio dish which could be rotated to soak up micro meteorites …


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  1. lawndart


    Looks like some bugger has smashed the hyperspace portal. :(

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: says:

      So space gyppos ^H^H^H^H Travellers leave a bloody great mess behind too?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: says:

        Maybe its kinda like the debris you get by eating crackers in bed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: says:

      Ouch, who threw that!

  2. Silverburn
    Thumb Up

    Credit where it's due

    Acts of micrometeorite aside, navigating something travelling at 30,000 on a journey of a million miles and parking it in orbit at it's destination deserves some kudos.

    Bravo chaps.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Credit where it's due

      "parking it in orbit at it's destination"

      It's a fast fly-by, there is no possible way they could brake it down and get it into orbit. (Well, except for lithobraking of course!)

      With luck it can then fly near some other Kuiper Belt objects and investigate those as well.

  3. Ivan Headache

    I find it quite remarkable

    that they can plan their parking with such precision when it's so far away - and the woman next door can't get her car into a space big enough for a double-decker bus even when it's staring at her.

    1. Rob Carriere

      Re: I find it quite remarkable

      Hey! I get nervous too when double-decker buses stare at me!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I find it quite remarkable

      Try shouting at her and call her an idiot a few times. She might fluke it due to additional stress hormones, or alternatively, lose it totally and try to beat you to death with a bagel. Is she cute?

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: I find it quite remarkable

        No, but the one the other side is.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like a good candidate for a follow up mission.

    *lots* more to see than originally thought.

    Good test of quantum entanglement communications systems?

  5. Richard Wharram

    One tenth of a kilometre

    How is is supposed to detect alien chicks at that resolution?

    Opportunity missed.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: One tenth of a kilometre

        Patio heaters?

    2. CCCP

      Re: One tenth of a kilometre

      Or, as it is mostly referred to, "100 metres".

      I guess it adds word count to use the kilo prefix and then divide by 10. Confusing for imperial fans though, not to mention linguini users.

      1. starbaby

        Re: One tenth of a kilometre

        100 meters implies a far greater level of precision than a "tenth of a km".

    3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

      Re: One tenth of a kilometre

      "Opportunity missed."

      No, Opportunity went to Mars. We're discussing Pluto and New Horizons, here.

  6. Jelliphiish

    quick mis-read as

    Mission to Pluto faces DEEP SPACE HUBRIS PERIL

    not sure why that seems better..

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    "Why don't we raise the shields?"

    "Two reasons sir. First, we haven't got any shields and second, we haven't got any shields. I realise that may sound like one reason, but it's such an important one I thought it was worth mentioning twice."

  8. Mage Silver badge

    Fantastic stuff

    It's a pity though that something the size of a pea could seriously damage the craft, depending on what it hits.

    1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: Fantastic stuff

      It is indeed a pity, but remember that the pea hits the craft at the equivalent of around Mach 40...

    2. Mephistro Silver badge

      Re: Fantastic stuff

      Why, It could even kill the playmonaut!

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Go for broke! Go in!

    If the probe encounters a facehugger, well, too bad.

    It's over pretty quickly one way or the the other.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Multiple moons and maybe rings? That sure sounds like a planet to me and not a dwarf.

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge


    This is the first I've heard that Pluto has more than one moon. sucks.

    1. Unep Eurobats

      Re: Wow

      If Pluto isn't a real planet they can't be real moons. They must be dwarf moons or moonlets or something.

      1. Count Ludwig

        Re: Wow

        Moonlet, ringlet?

        Uh oh - I foresee another diminuative vocabulary coming:- orblet, probelet, featurelet, debrilet, alienlet, If it docks with something that'll be a doc-let (tm).

        Mine's the one with Pluto's IP address in the pocket-let.

      2. Tom 11

        Re: Wow

        The name Moon means natural satellite orbiting a non solar mass, a satellite does not have to be orbiting a mass classified as a planet to earn its monicker. So no, we won't have to rename them.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Wow

      Gosh, I remember It was a website that published news and stuff for those interested in/working in the space industry, with a comment system and many knowledgable folk.

      ISTR that it turned into an offshoot of Facebook instead, complete with comments of people without even common sense level of physics, amazed that we can calculate things using applied maths, and articles/comments about as useful as homeopathy/astrology. Now you mention it, I miss it :(

  12. The last doughnut

    Planetary defence system

    That is all

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: Planetary defence system

      "That's no moon...turn around"

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Planetary defence system

        I don't think this probe will slow down enough to park in Docking Bay 46.....

  13. DanceMan

    Reconfigure the Transmogrifier!

    And then cross your fingers.

    We can see galaxies so far away now, and so far back in time, and yet we don't know for sure what we'll find at the edges of our own solar system. We have so much yet to learn. Wish I could live a lot longer than I will to hear all the discoveries. They're coming faster every century, every decade.

  14. Stevie Silver badge


    If we had any REAL scientists working on this they'd have developed a proper insystem space drive so people could go and have a look in person. A person in a proper space ship* could assess the risk and plot a course without breaking a sweat simply by using radar and Good Old Fashioned Know-How (as opposed to Naff Newfangled Know-Better).

    Unfortunately, everyone was too busy arguing what to call Pluto instead of focusing on the prize.

    Look, robots are okay, but will never capture the imagination of the taxpayer/funder because they will just point to the latest space video game and say the pictures are better and could be gotten cheaper.

    But offer even the slimmest possibility that you might actually be able to go there yourself...

    But I grew up in the Von Braun space age and as a kid sat for hours looking at the pictures of earth orbit teeming with busy humans and human-made machines was, to put it mildly, inspiring.

    Come to that, where the hell are all the oceanic and sub-oceanic habitats we were going to have by now?

    Talk about taking eyes of the prize.

    * With fins, even if it doesn't need 'em. Proper spaceships need fins for style.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      I'm getting out my old book "Tales of Pirx the Pilot" NOW!

      "...The date squared, though; it was exactly nineteen years ago that… Whoa, there! Easy does it…

      He went back to the log. A strong and legible hand, in faded ink. First day out. Second day, third day… Moderate reactor leakage: 0.42 roentgen per hour. All leaks sealed. Course coordinates such-and-such… Stellar fix…

      Come on, come on!

      He was no longer reading, just skimming over the hand-written lines.

      There it was!

      The date he had been forced to memorize as a schoolkid, and underneath it:

      1640 hours. Rec'd. Deimos's met. warning re: cloud headed our way from Jupiter perturbation of the Leonids. Cloud approaching on a collision course at vel. 40 km/sec. MW confirmed. PM alert sounded for crew. Despite persistent reactor leakage of 0.42 roentgen per hour, full-thrust escape maneuver on a course approximating Orion delta.

      New paragraph:

      1651. Im-

      The rest of the page was blank.

      No marks, no scribbling, no ink stains-nothing except for the final vertical stroke of the letter m, dipping down in willful defiance of the rules of good penmanship.

      This wobbly, several-millimeters-long extension, breaking off the text to wander aimlessly across the white expanse of paper, told the whole story: the crash on impact, the exploding decompression, the shrieks of men at the moment their throats and eyeballs burst…

      But Momssen's ship had a different name. What was it called?

      It was unreal. A ship almost as famous as Columbus's, and he couldn't remember the name of it!

      What was the name of that ship, Momssen's last ship?

      He hopped over to the bookshelf. The fat volume of Lloyd's Shipping Register seemed to plunk down right into his hands. A word that began with C. Cosmonaut? No. Condor? Not it, either. A longer name… the title of a play… a hero, a knight…

      He flung the book down on the desk and squinted at the walls. Hanging between the chart cabinet and the bookshelf were some instruments: a hygrometer, a radiation counter, a carbon-dioxide gauge…

      He scrutinized each of them, turning them this way and that. Not one inscription. They looked brand new, in fact.

      Over in the corner!

      Screwed into the oak paneling was a chronometer, plainly visible because of its shiny dial. A rather quaint-looking model, an antique, with cute little brass doodads around the dial… Wasting no time, he undid the screws, carefully slipped the chassis out with his fingertips, and cradled it in his palm. The glossy, brass-plated bottom bore the engraving CORIOLANUS.

      That was it-the name of Momssen's ship."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is there anything new in today's article we haven't already been told?

  16. Jim Lewis


    Surprised no-one has predicted how this will end in tears.

    Literally nixed by the aptly named moon.

  17. AndyC

    Why so surprised?

    When I was doing my degree (in Sheffield back in the early 90s - hell, I'm old!) our Astronomy professor postulated a theory that the planets in the solar system accreted material at different rates.

    Thos in the inner solar system accreted material earlier than the outer solar system. His theory was that Pluto was a relatively young planet (at that time, it was still a planet) and may still have been actively, but slowly, accreting material. He also theorised that the Oort Cloud and Kuipier belts were simply going to form planets in millions of years time, they just hadn't had the time yet.

    Looking at the gist of this report, simply lends a little more authority to his arguments. Maybe...

  18. Wombling_Free

    Gee, lucky we sent TWO probes then huh?

    You know just in case the first one failed, always have a backup! The first one might run into problems, but the second one 3 months later stands a better chance of making it through unscathed. Lucky we can use the second probe as live relay too, so we don't lose data if the probe gets smashed passing through the orbital plane. After all, we did plan on only transmitting the data AFTER the flypast, so at least we can salvage some science.

    What? Voyager, Mariners (all of them), Pioneer (all of them), Viking, Mars Rovers - but we sent two of those! What do you mean we didn't have any cash? What about all those fucking F22s we built? Each one of those is worth about 5 Shuttle flights - surely they wouldn't miss ONE? What do you mean we scrapped it TOO! Well, what do we have left then? LEO... and we can't even guarantee it?

    Oh, well, we're fucked then, aren't we?


    Gee it's a shame all the steely-eyed missile-men seem to have died. They would have sent two probes.

  19. Big_Boomer

    Load of Bollicks

    The chances of them hitting something by accident is effectively zero. In reality you could probably fly through the most dense part of Saturns rings and and still not hit anything. Hitting something on purpose at that distance is difficult as hell. Around Pluto the matter density is way lower than around Saturn. Space is very VERY big and matter is very VERY small. The whole article is just a "don;t forget about us" or to use Forum parlance they have just been "bumped".

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