That Is Some Buggin' Out
From the hand-out:
New Horizons is the first mission to the ninth planet -- the initial reconnaissance of Pluto and its satellite Charon, continuing on into the Kuiper Belt at the outer frontier of our solar system. With a launch planned for January 2006, New Horizons reaches Pluto in 2015, becoming the first exploration of a 'new' planet since Voyager nearly 30 years ago.
Of course, the 2015 arrival date depends on exactly when in the launch window they get to go. The primary window is January 11, 2006 to February 14, 2006. If they fit the launch into the first 23 days of the window, they'll swing by Jupiter and get a spectacular gravity assist that will get them to Pluto by 2015. If they're forced to wait for a launch opportunity in the last 12 days of the window, they'll have to do without the Jupiter slingshot and instead head straight to Pluto... which adds 4 years to the mission. I guess that's called getting there the Easy Way, or the Hard Way.
But here's what astonishes me.
On launch day, the little craft -- about the size of a Mini Cooper -- will be sitting atop a mighty Atlas V (v. 551) rocket and when she finally goes, man, she is going to be buggin'. She'll cross the moon's orbit just 3 hours after lift-off!
Hope she's got seat-belts and an airbag.
After the lecture, we had a bite to eat, then I copped a downtown #1 train at 72nd. Sitting across from me, a guy was studying a script and practicing his lines silently but expressively. A few feet away from him, some skater dude was gnawing open-mouthed on a slice of pizza and sucking a can of Coke. The script guy kept glancing at the skater guy. I couldn't figure out if he was annoyed at all the smacking/munching noises, or if he wanted to go out with the guy.
In between worrying myself about that, I kept thinking: "In the time it takes me to get home tonight, New Horizons would be 1/3 of the way to the Moon."
And that, dear children, is the difference between our lives and the lives of Spacemen.