The last bit of data contained a digital observation sequence of Pluto and the largest moon, Charon.
It’s been a year since NASA’s New Horizons went on its mission to Pluto but it was Oct. 25 when the last bit of data arrived safely to Earth and it contained a treasure trove of information for the scientists waiting for it.
The data was received at NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia and sent over to the research team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. At this stage, the New Horizons spacecraft had traveled a huge 3.1 billion miles and gathered vital information about Pluto and its five moons.
More than 50 gigabits of data was collected over the 15 month span and now the last bit has been received, the go-ahead has been made to wipe it from the recording equipment to make space for new data to be collected from its upcoming Kuiper Belt Extended Mission starting in 2019.
The team based at the John Hopkins Laboratory, now have a massive task of analyzing all the information the Pluto mission has collected but are all excited to do so.
“There’s a great deal of work ahead for us to understand the 400-plus scientific observations that have all been sent to Earth. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do—after all, who knows when the next data from a spacecraft visiting Pluto will be sent?” stated Alan Stern who is the principal investigator for the project.
The last bit of data contained a digital observation sequence of Pluto and the largest moon Charon – this collection has been described as a “pot of gold” by the team.
“We’re excited about the exploration ahead for New Horizons, and also about what we are still discovering from Pluto flyby data,” Stern stated. “Now, with our spacecraft transmitting the last of its data from last summer’s flight through the Pluto system, we know that the next great exploration of Pluto will require another mission to be sent there.”
For more information on the New Horizons mission, you can visit the official website.