NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent to observe dwarf planet Pluto faced a glitch and went into automatic safe mode to protect itself, suspending its operations briefly. Since the antenna faced to Earth for instructions was alive, NASA said it could undertake restoring it to normalcy with signals from the Mission Operations Centre.
The US space agency said New Horizons is now healthy and speeding towards it next target – the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 – with its operations restored to full and resuming its scientific data collection. By Sunday, the team hopes to restore the New Horizons spacecraft back to full normalcy.
Launched on January 19, 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft mission is enabling space scientists to understand the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and later venturing into deeper space exploration, especially to study the distant and mysterious Kuiper Belt that may provide info about the formation of our solar system.
New Horizons completed a short propulsive maneuver on February 1, 2017 to refine its track toward a New Year’s Day 2019 flyby past 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) some 4 billion miles from Earth. But on Thursday, February 9, 2017, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft underwent into a protective “safe mode,” due to a command-loading error that occurred early Thursday.
Following instructions from the Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, it returned to normal operations.
“Our rapid recovery was supported by other NASA missions that provided New Horizons with some of their valuable Deep Space Network antenna time,” said Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager at APL.
Now that it is restored to normalcy, due to the 10.5-hour round trip communications delay that results from operating a spacecraft more than 3.5 billion miles Earth, the team expects New Horizons to be back on its activities timeline early Sunday, Feb. 12.