The New Horizons spacecraft was launched on 19th January 2018 as part of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration‘s (NASA), New Frontiers programme; A series of space exploration programmes aimed at studying bodies in our Solar System. Under the direction of S. Alan Stern the New Horizons Mission was undertaken with a single, primary purpose; to conduct a flyby reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Using a gravity assist from the gas giant Jupiter in 2007, the spacecraft transmitted to Earth first clear glimpse of the dwarf planet on 14th July 2015. Since its launch the New Horizons Mission has completed 4,560 days i.e. 12.5 years of space exploration making it one of just five artificial objects to leave the Solar System.
On the 20th of June 2018 students from Muktangan’s Globe Mill Passage School were given an insight into the decade long journey of New Horizons Mission, from launch to Pluto. Thanks to a collaborative effort by the Muktangan Science department and Space Geeks Mumbai, a voluntary group of young researchers spreading the enthusiasm for Astronomy in the city; the school hosted Dr. Henry Throop, a Senior Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, USA and a member of the New Horizons science team since 2003.
During his interaction with the students, Dr. Throop gave them an in-depth timeline tour of the mission followed by an overview of spacecraft construction and exposure to exclusive video footage from Mission Control! taken during the Pluto flyby. Dr. Throop also spent almost an hour interacting with the students and answering their well researched questions. The session ended with Dr. Throop briefing the students about New Horizons extended mission further into the Kuiper Belt and exploration of 2014MU69, an ancient space object considered to be an integral part of the origin story of our Solar System.
Muktangan wishes Dr. Throop and the entire New Horizons Team the very best for this next leg of the their journey and we hope to have him back with us soon.
“Thank you Muktangan! What a fantastic experience it was to visit the school, and learn of its history and mission, and see it in action. The school is doing amazing work, and I felt such energy from the students, faculty, staff and trustees. The students had so many questions — including a lot of questions that I really had to think about because I hadn’t been asked them before! Best wishes for a successful school year to all of you.” – Dr. Henry Throop, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute, Arizona, USA.