The New Horizons Pluto Kuiper belt Mission: An Overview with Historical Context

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2007


S. Alan Stern

(Submitted on 27 Sep 2007)


NASA's New Horizons (NH) Pluto-Kuiper belt (PKB) mission was launched on 19 January 2006 on a Jupiter Gravity Assist (JGA) trajectory toward the Pluto system for a 14 July 2015 closest approach; Jupiter closest approach occurred on 28 February 2007. It was competitively selected by NASA for development on 29 November 2001. New Horizons is the first mission to the Pluto system and the Kuiper belt; and will complete the reconnaissance of the classical planets. The ~400 kg spacecraft carries seven scientific instruments, including imagers, spectrometers, radio science, a plasma and particles suite, and a dust counter built by university students. NH will study the Pluto system over a 5-month period beginning in early 2015. Following Pluto, NH will go on to reconnoiter one or two 30-50 kilometer diameter Kuiper belt Objects (KBOs), if NASA approves an extended mission. If successful, NH will represent a watershed development in the scientific exploration of a new class of bodies in the solar system - dwarf planets, of worlds with exotic volatiles on their surfaces, of rapidly (possibly hydrodynamically) escaping atmospheres, and of giant impact derived satellite systems. It will also provide the first dust density measurements beyond 18 AU, cratering records that shed light on both the ancient and present-day KB impactor population down to tens of meters, and a key comparator to the puzzlingly active, former dwarf planet (now satellite of Neptune) called Triton, which is as large as Eris and Pluto. Comments:

18 pages, 4 figures, 2 tables; To appear in a special volume of Space Science Reviews on the New Horizons mission

Subjects: Astrophysics (astro-ph)
Cite†as: arXiv:0709.4417v1 [astro-ph]
Submission history
From: Harold Weaver Jr [view email]
[v1] Thu, 27 Sep 2007 15:03:39 GMT (1760kb)

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