NASA releases panoramic photo of "arctic sunset" over Pluto
The latest images from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft have scientists stunned not only for their breathtaking views of Plutos majestic icy mountains, streams of frozen nitrogen and haunting low-lying hazes, but also for their strangely familiar, arctic look.
This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself, said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. But this image is also a scientific bonanza, revealing new details about Plutos atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains.
I am so happy this mission didn't get axed. We know so little about Pluto and Horizon collected so much it will continue to download it to us for the next three years as it sails into the dark. But no retirement for Horizon yet. In a couple years it will maneuver to do a flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object "named" 2014-MU69 on January 1st, 2019. Since it is so far from the sun (>40x as far as Earth) we know almost nothing about the Kuiper Belt. A total bonus mission.
It would be awesome if they were able to get a rover on Pluto to get some pictures, but I can't even imagine how difficult that would be (getting there and keeping it 'alive').
...because of the dimness of the sun at that distance, solar panels on the rover would be useless. The only known power source that could keep a rover working on Pluto is a chunk of plutonium...not what we want to be launching into space...
it will be decided in 2016. (They're already on their way to 2014-MU69, of course.) I wouldn't bet against Alan Stern right now, though, so hopefully NASA will come through!
New Horizons has a dish on the Deep Space Network 24/7 right now, it seems, as the data 'floods' in at around 3kb/sec.
Another image from the article:
Even rethugs would have to see the folly of not funding the monitoring. I mean you designed the thing, built it, launched it, waited a decade for it to get there and then pull the plug.
NASA funding in general I am much more worried about. I fear we may not even replace the ISS when it reaches end of life. Hopefully commercial transport and commercial crew programs will make it easier for NASA to budget but we still have horrible space pork like the SLS eating up hundreds of millions of dollars.