Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday Spaceship Blogging

by Tom Bozzo

The website for the New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission has a getting underway note from the Principal Investigator that tickled my geek fancy. Check it out. Amusing trivia:
Because we have to slow down... by those 18 meters per second [to get the correct gravity assist from Jupiter], our third stage will beat us to Jupiter. However, because it will not hit the Pluto aim point, it will not beat us to Pluto. (Which is a relief — can you imagine us being the second to arrive at Pluto after all this, having been beat by a derelict Boeing upper stage?) In fact, because the third stage cannot trim up its trajectory, it will not cross Pluto's orbit until Oct. 15, 2015. And when it does, it'll be about 200 million kilometers (roughly the distance from the Sun to Mars) from Pluto.
What's amusing is that the derelict upper stage will only be a few months behind the New Horizons probe. The first piece of space junk to leave the Solar System, perhaps?
That is *cool*. But I can foresee my house getting even messier than it already is once LG learns about space junk...
I tried telling John about New Horizons, but it didn't seem to register. We need some elementary astronomy lessons.

The picture of the PI with the rocket and thumbs up should inspire some kids to space science, if the government were to liberate some budget from less valuable adventures, though it'll be fun in '15 to explain to our tweens how those scientists spent 9 years mostly twiddling those thumbs waiting for the probe to get there.
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