NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will receive a wake-up signal at 3:00 pm EST on Saturday to begin preparations for the long-awaited meeting with Pluto.
Since its launch in January 2006, the New Horizons mission has spent most of its time traveling through the solar system in sleep mode, saving wear and tear on electronics and eliminating the need for constant flight control.
Currently, at a distance of 2, 9 billion km from Earth, the mission is completing its “electronic dream” and is preparing to start shooting the icy dwarf planet Pluto and its surrounding satellites.
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The closest distance will be the mission of New Horizons on July 14, when the device will be at a distance of 6200 miles from Pluto. As expected, already 90 minutes after the wake-up signal is sent to the mission, the spacecraft will have to send a radio signal to Earth that it is in active mode.
"We are almost on the verge of Pluto," says lead researcher Alan Stern.
"We have worked for many years to prepare for this moment," added Mark Holdridge, New Horizons mission manager at Johns Hopkins University in the Applied Physics Laboratory, Maryland.
The New Horizons team is still looking for additional targets in the Kuiper belt to go there after meeting with Pluto.