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New Horizons

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This mission flies to the former last official planet of our solar system and beyond. The mission planners hope after the rendezvous with Pluto to continue the mission with a fly-by of some Kuiper Belt objects.

The space probe will start on January 17, 2006 with an Atlas V rocket. As a result of the large distance the space probe need nine years. Between February and March 2007 the space probe will fly by Jupiter the largest planet in our solar system to get a gravity boost.
The primary scientific objectives are to characterize the global geology and morphology and map the surface composition of Pluto and Charon, and study the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate.
Pluto's moon, Charon, is half the size of Pluto and built with him a binary system (in October 2005 astronomers detect with the Hubble Space Telescope possible two new moons of Pluto). Although binary planets are thought to be common in the galaxy, as are binary stars, no spacecraft has yet explored one. New Horizons will be the first mission to a binary object of any type.
Mission overview:
  • Characterize geology and morphology ("the look") of Pluto and Charon
  • Characterize the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
  • Search for an atmosphere around Charon
  • Map surface temperatures on Pluto and Charon
  • Search for rings and additional satellites around Pluto
  • PLUS... conduct similar investigations of one or more Kuiper Belt Objects
  • The payload includes seven instruments:
    Ralph's - main objectives are to obtain high resolution color maps and surface composition maps of the surfaces of Pluto and Charon. The instrument has two separate channels: the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). A single telescope with a 3-inch (6-centimeter) aperture collects and focuses the light used in both channels.
    Alice - is an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer that will probe the atmospheric composition of Pluto. A "spectrometer" is an instrument that separates light into its constituent wavelengths, like a prism, only better. An "imaging spectrometer" both separates the different wavelengths of light and produces an image of the target at each wavelength.
    REX - is an acronym for "radio experiment" - it is really just a small printed circuit board, containing sophisticated electronics, integrated into the New Horizons radio telecommunications system. All communication with New Horizons, including the downlink of science data, takes place through the radio package, which makes it critical to mission success.
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