back to article Hubble space telescope seeks new encounter for Pluto-bound spacecraft

NASA’s Hubble Telescope committee has approved a plan to have the space 'scope search for something beyond Pluto for the space agency's New Horizons craft to visit after it flies by next summer. Artist's rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Kuiper Belt object — a city-sized icy relic left over from the birth …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better point it at Pluto and determine just how many satellites it actually has before swinging this thing by next year. I think they've discovered a couple of moons since Horizon has launched.

    And on a side note.....why Pluto? Seriously, why Pluto? I've been scratching my head on this one since I heard of the mission way back when. There are other objects closer to us that are more interesting, say, one of Jupiter's or Saturn's moons that may or may not contain an ocean. The asteroid belt has some some interesting objects. Steering through it would be a bitch but steering through the outer belt as this article refers would seem more difficult to me.

    1. stizzleswick

      "[...]...why Pluto? [...] say, one of Jupiter's or Saturn's moons that may or may not contain an ocean. The asteroid belt has some some interesting objects. [...]"

      At the time New Horizons was planned, there were already missions either on their way or being planned (and on their way by now) that target all of those objectives. The Dawn mission is checking on the Main Belt (particularly, Vesta and Ceres, but the spacecraft does the occasional sideways glance on the way), Cassini/Huygens is still busy in between Saturn and its moons, there is a lander mission being planned for Europa, and so on.

      Pluto, being a potential KBO, is the nearest such that we know of, and the entire Kuiper Belt is a rather unexplored place which probably holds a lot of insights into how our solar system came together, so it's a logical area to explore.

      Personally, I wish the funding for the originally planned Kuiper Express probe would have come together; the potential scientific gains would have been far larger, but there you go, NASA doesn't get the kind of funding they actually need.

      1. John Sanders

        I agree with you, but at the same time I wish there were orbiter missions to Uranus and Neptune.

        1. stizzleswick

          I would love those, too, esp. to explore the atmospheres of those two extreme bodies, plus a few other interesting features including the likes of Mimas. Mind, depending on the incoming results of New Horizons, there might be another New Frontiers-level mission forthcoming which does either a tour or takes on Neptune. Or ESA finally decides to do a stand-alone deep-space mission and sends some serious materiel out there. The Huygens lander proved they have the know-how.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CHON food

    We really need to get over our hangups about putting fission power sources in spacecraft.

    NH will have taken a decade to get to its destination, and it can't even stop when it gets there!

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: putting fission power sources in spacecraft

      Not if 99% of rocket launches succeed. Nor if 99.9% of rocket launches succeed.

      Now the failures only give a nice show and some smoke:

      Astronomers can wait or a future generation will reap the results. Explore space, but there is no need to speed things up.

      BTW the next tansit of Venus is in December 2117.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: putting fission power sources in spacecraft

        Not if 99% of rocket launches succeed. Nor if 99.9% of rocket launches succeed

        Why not? Having uranium oxide tubes drop into the ocean will only enrage the zombified green,

        EVEN IF 90% SUCCEED!

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: Why not?

          What if the uranium tubes are vaporised in the explosion ? In that case, you're not getting tubes dropping in to the ocean, you're getting yet another radioactive cloud in the atmosphere which will cause widespread panic and give a good excuse to cut nuclear reactors back another few decades.

          The principle of precaution is at work here, as it should be. If only industries and politicians took it into account our world would be better off.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Why not?

            What if the uranium tubes are vaporised in the explosion

            How is that supposed to happen?

            The principle of precaution is at work here

            This is the principle of people so afraid to live that they commit suicide.

            1. Beachrider

              Background radiation...

              I think that we should be afraid of owls. My cat is...

          2. cray74

            Re: Why not?

            How are the uranium tubes going to be vaporized in the explosion? RTGs are not just built to survive rocket explosions, they've demonstrably survived the experience. They've also survived re-entry, just as designed. And those were older, less durable* RTGs from the 1960s and early 1970s, not the improved armored vaults dangled off space probes today.

            *Where "less durable" is used generously; RTG's were armored beasts in the 1960s, too. The Nimbus B-1's SNAP-19 RTG was recovered and the fuel reused. Apollo 13's RTG landed in the Pacific without leaking.

  3. Arachnoid

    Give the Hubbles popularity

    I would have thought the funding for a Hubble II would be in the offing?

    1. DNTP

      Re: Give the Hubbles popularity

      Well you know the problem with funding science, it doesn't measure up to a completely arbitrary standard of profitability.

    2. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Give the Hubbles popularity

      The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is planned for 2018.

    3. Wombling_Free

      Re: Give the Hubbles popularity

      I think there are actually about 11 Hubble-class telescopes up there. Google 'Keyhole' or 'KH-11' - all of those spy satellites have the same basic chassis and optics as the HST, but just some different sensors. Oh, and they all point at Earth (or 'credible TEEEEERRRRSST threats') rather than the far more interesting stars.

  4. kakarr0t

    thought it was a hoax, however....

    Every now and then I come across conspiracies and one of those was of dwarf star Nibiru, orbiting past Pluto... the only reason I thought of this is because we're going to point Hubble in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius looking for objects past Pluto. That happens to be exactly where conspiracists say Nibiru is currently hiding... It might be nothing orrrr it just might be worth looking into. Supposedly Nibiru, if the stories are true, could at worst wipe out all of human existence or at the very least cause major changes in our climate.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: thought it was a hoax, however....

      Hollywood logic.

      Do not "go in the directon of Sagittarius" looking for random crap floating out there.

      You point a fracking telescope in that direction. Then do VERY long exposures. The problem is that the galactic center is in the background.

      1. kakarr0t

        Re: thought it was a hoax, however....

        I think that's why they're doing it this way.

        "To figure out which are icy KBOs and which are background stars in the constellation, Hubble will pan across at the predicted rate the objects are moving. This should make other stars streak in the images while KBOs stay steady as pinpoint objects."

    2. Tom 13

      Re: thought it was a hoax, however....

      Aren't we still about 100 years too early for Bruce Willis to be saving the universe with the help of a orange haired woman and an obnoxious video dj?

    3. Wombling_Free

      Re: thought it was a hoax, however....

      What do you mean 'worst'?

      Humans are a disease...

  5. Scroticus Canis

    KBOs have not been seen close up? Come on pull the other one!

    "The Kuiper Belt is a vast debris field of icy bodies left over from the formation of the Solar System. None of them have ever been seen close up because they range as far as five billion miles from Earth."

    So the comets that regularly pass through the inner solar system aren't KBOs? The Rosseta probe isn't currently closing in on one? A probe wasn't shot into a comet's head recently?

    Please get it right if you are going to write about something.

    1. mr.K

      Re: KBOs have not been seen close up? Come on pull the other one!

      I am not sure comets actually qualify as Kuiper belt objects as they are not orbiting out there any more, as is the case with 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as Rosetta is visiting, or their entire orbit is only partial placed in the belt. Besides they didn't use the term Kuiper belt object just Kuiper belt and comets are no longer part of it and thus no of the bodies out in the Kuiper belt has been seen up close. Then there is this small detail that the comets are more likely from the scattered disc and not the Kuiper belt, but we are now in a region of astronomy which is largely unexplored which mean the definitions are still being hashed out. (What is what and if one is part of the other is apparently up to debate)

      Regardless of all this. If you let comets be KBOs and also a part of the Kuiper belt and that we seen a few up close* they are still fundamentally different from the objects still out in the Kuiper belt. Being regularly so close to the sun that the surface melts and vaporises does change you a bit.

      The meaning of the paragraph was quite clear to me. It is possible to add two pages extra to add layers of precision, but pedantry-proofing articles makes them unreadable.

      *I don't think we actually have any close up pictures from Rosetta yet.

  6. Martin Budden Silver badge

    a = 0.4 + 0.3 x k

    Does anyone else look at all the debris that is the Kuiper Belt and think it must have something to do with Neptune being bumped into the wrong orbit? No? Just me then.

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