Tag Archives: technology

New Horizons mission nearing Pluto after nine years in space

Members of the media garbed in protective unforms view NASA's New Horizons spacecraft 04 November 2005 in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Florida during preparations for its mid-January 2006 launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. The New Horizons will be the first mission to the planet Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the journey taking about nine years. Pluto was discovered in 1930 at a distance of some 6.4 billion kilometers (three billion miles) from the sun in the heart of the Kuiper Belt -- a zone beyond Neptune 4.5-7.5 billion kilometers (2.8-4.6 billion miles) from the sun, which is estimated to include more than 35,000 objects of more than 100 kilomters (65 miles) in diameter: the remnants of the sun's accretion ring of matter from which all the planets were formed. AFP PHOTO/Bruce WEAVER (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)© Bruce

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/new-horizons-mission-nearing-pluto-after-nine-years-in-space/ar-BBgckI8?ocid=ansBaltimoreSun11


Weaver/AFP/Getty Images Members of the media garbed in protective unforms view NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft 04 November 2005 in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Florida during…It took the spacecraft New Horizons, hurtling from Earth faster than any mission before it, a matter of hours to pass the moon’s orbit and a year to reach Jupiter’s gravity.

Nine years into its journey, it’s finally approaching its destination: Pluto.

Much has changed since scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., conceived the mission a decade and a half ago. Astronomers found two more moons orbiting Pluto, observed changes in its thin atmosphere, and determined the distant object wasn’t a planet, after all.

But they expect those discoveries to pale compared to the observations New Horizons will record once they wake it from hibernation Saturday, and as it approaches an encounter with Pluto in July. They organized the mission to learn more about Pluto’s composition and characteristics, and how planets formed in the early universe.

Scientists have waited patiently for the data, and they have more waiting ahead: The bulk of the data New Horizons collects in July will take days or weeks to beam back to Earth in chunks — and could yet take years to fully grasp.

“There’s been a lot of delayed gratification,” said Hal Weaver, the lab’s New Horizons project scientist.

But scientists say it will be worth the wait. Relatively little is known about Pluto, an object smaller than Earth’s moon and more than 15,000 times farther away. Only in recent years have ground-based telescopes been developed that are powerful enough to see it in any detail.

Since Pluto’s discovery in 1930, astronomers have been able to make only tentative hypotheses about it and other objects around it.

“That’s where we would be stuck if we didn’t have a mission,” said Keith Noll, chief of the planetary systems laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. His lab is not directly involved in the mission, but studies Pluto and other objects at the edge of the solar system.

“You’re just groping in a dark room, but this is going to be like turning on the light switch.”

NASA approved the Hopkins scientists’ plans to design, build and operate New Horizons in 2001. The mission was canceled twice, and other initiatives to explore Pluto could not get past fits and starts amid NASA budget cuts.

It launched in January 2006, within a window that would allow it to make the journey from Earth in 91/2. When it escaped Earth’s gravity, rockets propelled it away at 36,000 mph, and when it passed Jupiter a year later, engineers were able to use the gaseous giant’s gravity to increase that speed by 20 percent — cutting its journey by three years.

At that point, it wasn’t even a quarter of the way to its target.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto in 2006 from planet to the newly defined dwarf planet — an object that orbits the sun and is massive enough to have been rounded by its own gravity, but which has not exerted enough gravitational pull to clear its neighborhood of other objects.

Aside from semiannual checkups and some brief observations of Jupiter — it watched bursts of electrically charged particles spewing from the planet, and eruptions on one volcanic moon — New Horizons has otherwise been idly cruising.

But it is set to spring to life Saturday afternoon, under commands programmed into its computer in August. At about 4:30 p.m., it’s expected to send word that it is in “active” mode — a message that, even traveling at the speed of light, will take 41/2 hours to reach Earth.

At that point, New Horizons should be 162 million miles from Pluto, less than two astronomical units (the distance between the Earth and the sun).

In mid-January, its payload of seven instruments is to begin observing Pluto from afar. They include sensors to image the dwarf planet’s system in infrared and ultraviolet light and two cameras, and should be able to record increasing detail leading up to the planned July 14 fly-by.

Scientists have a long list of goals, Weaver said, including mapping the composition of Pluto and its largest Moon, Charon, down to a scale in kilometers, as well as the planet’s atmosphere, which is somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million times thinner than that of Earth. They know the surface contains frozen ethane, and that the atmosphere contains nitrogen and traces of methane and carbon monoxide, but expect to get a more detailed picture using New Horizons’ instruments.

They also plan to get a closer look at Kerberos and Styx, two smaller moons that the Hubble Space Telescope spotted in 2005, and to search for any other moons or rings around Pluto.

But gathering the observations isn’t as simple as pointing and shooting a camera. The distance to Pluto is so far that it’s difficult to measure with precision, said Mark Holdridge, mission manager of the Pluto encounter. And because 248 years pass on Earth each time Pluto revolves around the sun, scientists haven’t observed enough of it to map its orbit with certainty.

Thus, they have an estimate of when New Horizons will pass by, but they need the actual timeline of the fly-by to fall within about 7 minutes of their calculations.

“If we’re off by a certain amount, we could get a lot of black space,” Holdridge said. “That would be very disappointing for everyone who has worked on this mission for the last 15 years.”

While some data should take the 41/2-hour trip back to Earth immediately, it could take days or weeks for researchers to get their hands on a richer set of observations, because New Horizons is equipped with only a six-foot-long antenna with the transmission capability of an old telephone-based modem.

“That’s the biggest we could fit and still get to Pluto in nine and a half years,” Weaver said. “Since we’ve been waiting nine and a half years, we can wait another day before sending down some of the greatest data.”

And before that, observations sent as New Horizons approaches Pluto could still be better than anything scientists have seen before. It is expected to be only the fifth space probe to escape the solar system, and the first since Voyager 1, which launched in 1977 and entered interstellar space in 2012.

Mankind’s timeline – How our moments just tick

Was just mulling over a regular series for the blog (still pending).

First thought was to do a series of predictions in relation to technology, science, polotics and environment, but first thing I do is start research and find:



Just though I’d share 2020

2020 — America’s power shift is destabilising the Asia-Pacific region | Generation X is reshaping global politics | Internet use reaches 5 billion worldwide | The 5G standard is released | Texting by thinking | Complex organ replacements grown from stem cells | The first stem cell therapy for congestive heart failure | A cure for malaria | Progress with longevity extension | Genetically engineered “super” bananas | Ultra High Definition Television (4320p) is common in homes | Holographic TV is going mainstream | Africa and the Middle East are linked by a trans-continental bridge |Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games | Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) has been significantly expanded | The first self-sufficient, car-free city in mainland China | Completion of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link | The UK has expanded its offshore grid connections | Smart meters in every UK home |Public smoking is banned across every US state | Coal is banned in Beijing | Mercury pollution has been greatly reduced | Glacier National Park and other regions are becoming ice-free | Britain’s new aircraft carriers reach full operational capability | 30,000 drones are patrolling the skies of America| Mars 2020 rover mission | BepiColombo arrives in orbit around Mercury | Video games with photo-realistic graphics | Expo 2020 is held in Dubai





The world is smaller by the day

The world is smaller by the day, and anything that breaks the surface of the web, is gobbled up; tabulated and exists. Our thoughts all stored, analysed and valued in gigantic digital fortresses owned by the corporate world looking to cent and penny to larger balances so they can feed their popularity.


Something I wrote for a G+ post in April 2014, Liked it so Thought I would share it again

Man Hunt

Below Micro Short Story recovered from long forgotten blog:


Man Hunt

The K drive gives one last static stutter and dies, a small red light starts flashing on the console, the whining hum of that usually accompanies normal ships operations slows and dissipates in to silence. The cockpit of the Aurora class deep space shuttle is dimly lit only by the yellow overhead emergency light. Through the front view port, a green and blue moon can be seen slowly drifting across a class seven gas giant striated with angry purples and reds. The silence is disturbed by an electronic hum coming from behind the door to the rear of the cockpit, followed by a clang, minutes pass and the door opens revealing a tall naked man with long unkempt black hair, yawning as he staggers towards the pilots seat, leaning heavily on the seat back and levering himself down and round in to it. Reaching out he flicks the red light, which immediately illuminates the cabin. Touching another button on the console brings a detailed heads up display across the view port showing the moon, planet and system in digital detail. Two small red dots on the display have white numbers displayed next to them and seem to be travelling between the second and third planets in the system. The gas giant and its companion lay in the sixth orbit of ten from the G type sun.

“All Quiet” he says to himself, punching in a few numbers in the keyboard the display changes to a magnified section of the moon, showing a valley near the equator buried in a heavily forested area, pressing another button the display shifts to the northern end of the valley displaying a large square concreted area with a scattering of small buildings surrounding a large round domed structure.

“Thought you could hide from us, did you”


Thoughts on THE modern

Since the beginning of the 20th century with access to education (in the developed world) becoming a generational upwards curve, textually enabled parents begetting more complex children and on wards we are, as individuals increasingly self aware and better enabled to interact with the millions that now intersect our daily lives.  Technology puts current affairs and personal gossip in our pockets, so there are no lost moments, the times we use to sit or stand and decompress are filled with digital input, yet we are essentially still the same race as has been cataloged from 50,000 years ago. What is the factor that’s accelerated development, or is this just a delusion brought about by connectivity, were we so restricted from external influence in the past, that we now are deluded by the constant impact of close personal interaction with other minds, into believing in the worship of self within community.

The above statement is a stream of consciousness and is obviously generated by my own “moment” but with all the structure encapsulated within modern media, am I just another isolated unit of the hive mind or a construct of personal experience, are concepts, or could it be culture, proliferated unilaterally or is it all part of the shared gestalt. We move through time together, if we share language and are part of the same race, what is the connection that allows such deep communication?

We are:





Can not resist the theft