The Exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt with the New Horizons Mission


Fri, 09 Oct 2015, 03:00 pm - 04:00 pm
Natural Science Bldg. 112 - Louisville, KY
Fall 2015
Dr. Hal Weaver


Dr. Hal Weaver
New Horizons Project Scientist
Johns Hopkins University / Applied Physics Laboratory

The New Horizons (NH) mission was selected by NASA in November 2001 to conduct the first in situ reconnaissance of Pluto and the Kuiper belt. The NH spacecraft was launched on 2006 January 19, received a gravity assist from Jupiter during closest approach on 2007 February 28, and flew 12,500 km above Pluto's surface on 2015 July 14. NH carried a sophisticated suite of seven scientific instruments, altogether weighing less than 30 kg and drawing less than 30 W of power, that includes panchromatic and color imagers, ultraviolet and infrared spectral imagers, a radio science package, plasma and charged particle sensors, and a dust counting experiment. These instruments enabled the first detailed exploration of a new class of outer solar system objects, the dwarf planets, which have exotic volatiles on their surfaces, escaping atmospheres, and satellite systems. NH also provided the first dust density measurements beyond 18~AU and cratering records that document both the ancient and present-day collisional environment in the outer solar system down to sizes of tens of meters. NH obtained unprecedented data on Pluto's small satellites (Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra), adding significantly to the scientific bounty returned from the NH mission. The NH spacecraft will be targeted toward the flyby of a small (~30 km) Kuiper Belt Object in late-2015, enabling the study of an object in a completely different dynamical class (cold classical) than Pluto, if NASA approves an Extended Mission phase.


Natural Science Bldg. 112