back to article New Horizons mission to Pluto prepares for terrifying silence on Tuesday AM

On Tuesday morning at 0449 PDT (1149 UTC), the New Horizons space probe will make mankind’s first visit to Pluto, and there will be much rejoicing; but we won’t actually know if the mission is a success until much later. At a press conference on Monday the team, some of whom have been working on the project for more than 20 …

  1. elDog Silver badge

    Not sure the 10-year mission would be a "failure", no matter what the outcome

    Every one of these attempts has yielded us far more information about how to proceed in the future. If we are always afraid of failure we will still be bits of free-floating amino acids. I applaud the various nations and people/corporations that are willing to take these risks. Someday, way past our lifetimes, others will talk about standing on their shoulders.

    At the kinds of speeds New Horizon’s probe is going, a small micrometeorite hit head on will utterly destroy it. A less serious impact with a smaller piece of matter could put it into a spin that would destroy any data-gathering capabilities the probe has, rendering its nearly 10-year mission a failure.

    Needless to say Tuesday will be tense. But even if the probe is destroyed there would be one bright side, since the man who discovered the then planet might come to rest on it – or at least part of him.

    Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, is actually traveling on the New Horizons probe, or at least one ounce of his ashes are. He gave his blessing to the mission in the 1990s, and after his death the family released the ashes to be built into an inscribed container on the spacecraft.

    Hopefully though, Tombaugh and the probe he enabled will carry on past Pluto and out into the Kuiper belt that encircles the Solar System. Once out there, New Horizons could still have a few more surprises left for us yet. ®

    1. Grikath

      Re: Not sure the 10-year mission would be a "failure", no matter what the outcome

      the probe has already sent back more detailed pictures and other science than we've ever had from the couple of pixels even Hubble can generate. So never a failure, and at least a "partial success" for this one little probe.

      Mind, I hope for a full success where they have to correct for speed-blur.. ;)

  2. sjsmoto

    Will a mere "congrats" do? I mean, it's like a quarterback throwing a ball for a receiver to catch 9 years later, and still waiting a few more hours to hear back "I've got it!" Incredible.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      It's a little jump in the past...

      ... when people needed to wait for explorers to get back and tell what they had seen... we've expanded our horizon so much our actual technology is pushed to its limits.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      If quarterbacks used a ball that could have its direction controlled after it was initially tossed they'd be far more accurate. Hitting (or rather, just missing) Pluto isn't difficult, it is just math.

      Designing the spacecraft so it stays operational and being able to overcome problems like the one from a week or two ago is the truly hard part, because they have to anticipate hundreds of "what ifs" and come up with solutions to them before experiencing them. If they miss one, and it happens, or one that has no solution (like the micrometeorite impact) occurs, then they're screwed.

  3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    Clyde Tombaugh

    I met a guy (David Levy) that met Clyde Tombaugh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clyde Tombaugh

      And I replied to a forum post from some guy who met a guy who met Clyde Tombaugh!

  4. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The best

    The very best.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most distant human remains?

    He gave his blessing to the mission in the 1990s, and after his death the family released the ashes to be built into an inscribed container on the spacecraft.

    I guess that makes his human remains the most distant human remains from human civilisation, and also breaks a few world records speed-wise.

    Hopefully ET doesn't confuse the ashes with cocaine and try to snort them. (I've heard of people doing this.)

  6. Fink-Nottle

    The planet of the dwarves ... I can't wait for the pics!

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      They'd better be very high-res pics, on account of dwarves being small.

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