Musings on Exploration
The north polar region of Pluto, with canyons running vertically across the region, named Lowell Regio. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
We got another green light from the New Horizons mission this week, indicating its journey of exploration of continues. It means the spacecraft is alive and well, although mostly hibernating on its way out to its next target. The spacecraft is speeding along, continuing its headlong outward journey from Earth, exploring “new worlds” out there. If what it saw at Pluto is any indication, planetary scientists will likely have a few surprises in store.
Already, they’re puzzling over the shape of the next target world, MU69 (first spied by Hubble Space Telescope). Could it be two worlds in close orbit? A bi-lobed world in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt? We’ll all find out much later this year.
Targeting a Distant Planet
Sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto’s complex atmospheric haze layers. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Pluto has always been a target for exploration, although the launch windows don’t open very often. Heck, it wasn’t even discovered until early in the 20th century. Missions to the nearby ...