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Fri Apr 16, 2021, 08:11 PM

After Visiting Pluto, NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Reaches Another Cosmic Milestone

On Jan. 19, 2006, the Earth lost half a ton. More precisely, it lost 1,054 lbs (478 kg), but it’s O.K. to round down, since the 13 octillion-pound planet hardly noticed the missing weight. The flyweight fleck of matter was very much born of the planet, a collection of metal and silicon and copper and rubber and plastics and foil and a bit of plutonium hammered together into the New Horizons spacecraft. Launched atop an Atlas V rocket, New Horizons tore away from Earth at a blistering 58,500 k/h (36,400 mph), a record-breaking speed that seemed very much fitting, given that its destination was Pluto, 5.1 billion km (3.2 billion mi.) away. If you want to travel a distance like that, it’s best to make tracks.

New Horizons reached Pluto on July 14, 2015, becoming the first spacecraft to barnstorm the dwarf planet. Less than four years later, on Jan. 1, 2019, it passed the peanut-shaped, 36-km long Kuiper Belt object known as Arrokoth, a rocky, icy body in the river of similar comet-like objects that circles the solar system. That rendezvous too was a first. We’ve known about the Kuiper Belt since astronomer Gerard Kuiper theorized its existence in 1951, but we had never visited.

One little ship notching two space records ought to be accomplishment enough. But New Horizons is about to make headlines again. At precisely 8:42 a.m. EDT tomorrow, it will pass an invisible line in space that will place it 7.5 billion kilometers from Earth. That factors out to 50 astronomical units (AU)—or 50 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun—making New Horizons one of only a small handful of spacecraft to pass that cosmic milestone. There are a lot of ways to contemplate what a head-spinning distance 50 AU is, but one of the best is to consider that even moving at light speed, commands radioed up from Earth take more than seven hours to reach the spacecraft.

“Looking back at the flight of New Horizons from Earth to 50 AU almost seems in some way like a dream,” said Alan Stern, the spacecraft’s principal investigator, in a statement from NASA. “Most of us on the team have been a part of this mission since it was just an idea, and during that time our kids have grown up, and our parents, and we ourselves, have grown older.”

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/after-visiting-pluto-nasas-new-horizons-spacecraft-reaches-another-cosmic-milestone/ar-BB1fJgHB

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Reply After Visiting Pluto, NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Reaches Another Cosmic Milestone (Original post)
Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin Apr 16 OP
abqtommy Apr 16 #1
Victor_c3 Apr 16 #2
muriel_volestrangler Apr 17 #3

Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri Apr 16, 2021, 08:22 PM

1. With NASA doing so many wonderful and productive things maybe we should put them

in charge of all U.S. police departments.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri Apr 16, 2021, 08:30 PM

2. Quickly calculating some numbers, It'll take it 4,000 years to go one light-year at its current pace

I love this sort of stuff. Nationalism should be directed towards scientific and exploratory accomplishments rather than militaries and wars. At least we get something tangible for it...

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Response to Victor_c3 (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 17, 2021, 09:53 AM

3. More, I think - nearly 22,000 years

From NASA's Horizons tool (the name is a coincidence - it can calculate trajectories and positions for all kinds of planets, moons, comets, spacecraft etc.) its current speed, relative to the Sun, is 13.8 km/s. The speed of light is 300,000 km/s, which is 21,739 times New Horizon's speed.

New Horizons average speed from launch until now will have been more than that, since the Sun's gravity has been slowing it down over the years. 50 AU is 0.00079 light-years, which it has covered in about 15 years 3 months; that's about 0.000052 light-years/year, or 19,300 years to travel a single light-year.

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