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posted by martyb on Thursday May 18, @07:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the dogged-determination dept.

Scientists, including New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, met in Houston on April 24th to discuss the possibility of a Pluto orbiter mission. The mission would likely cost $1-2 billion, compared to around $700 million for New Horizons and $467 million for the Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres. A launch date in the late 2020s is possible, with a 2030 launch coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Pluto's discovery:

[A] Pluto orbiter mission is a long way from becoming reality, Stern stressed. He said he and his fellow researchers aim to mature the concept in time for it to be considered during the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a U.S. National Research Council effort that sets exploration priorities for NASA every 10 years. The next decadal survey will start in 2020, finish in 2022 and be published in 2023, Stern said.

Using the Space Launch System (SLS) could reduce travel time compared to the nine-and-half-year journey of New Horizons, but braking would be required to orbit the Pluto-Charon system, increasing the total travel time back to around seven to nine years. Other missions being considered include flybys of more distant Kuiper Belt dwarf planets (Eris, Sedna, etc.) and exploration of Neptune's moons Triton and Nereid, which are likely captured Kuiper Belt Objects. Triton has about a 14% larger radius and 64% more mass than Pluto. Voyager 2 observed 40% of Triton's surface in 1989.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:13PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:13PM (#511808)

    ... to make more free software and free content to support freedom in the world.

    (Too bad Mozilla has squandered so much of the Google / Yahoo windfall.)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:29PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:29PM (#511815)

      Why should anyone pay you to code when you people freely admit you would code for free? You negotiated your pay to be zero and now you want to whine about it? No you shut the fuck up and you get back to work. More free software, produce the code, right now.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 18, @08:59PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 18, @08:59PM (#511831)

        Those bastards, doing charity work to make the world a better place! Fuck 'em!

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @09:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @09:01PM (#511832)

        I'm sure you know the difference between free as in speech and free as in beer, stop acting dumb

      • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Thursday May 18, @09:37PM

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 18, @09:37PM (#511845) Homepage Journal

        Don't egg them on. The more they work on Firefox, the more it sucks.

        Now, a proper boot manager would be nice. You wouldn't believe how much of a pain in the ass it is to set boot partitions when dealing with multiple operating systems. A-HEM. Get crackin' boys!

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:31PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:31PM (#511816)

      Space exploration is also important. I wish we did that instead on fighting each other.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:54PM (#511830)

        Well said! (original AC)

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @09:18PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @09:18PM (#511837)

        Are you trying to hurt the profitability of the military industrial complex? Isn't that anti-American?

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 18, @08:51PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 18, @08:51PM (#511829)

      It could pay a bunch of extra UX experts to more thoroughly fuck up ALL the Mozilla product interfaces. Indefinitely. :P

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @09:13PM

      by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @09:13PM (#511835)

      Imagine what even one billion dollars could have done for LibreOffice a few years back. That might put a dent in some proprietary office suites.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @11:47PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @11:47PM (#511903)

      I heard Trump doesn't take a salary for his President gig. I guess it's one of those things you put on your cv when you're looking for a better gig.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:18PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:18PM (#511810)

    It just seems such a terribly high price when we have to spend $TRILLIONS on national defense to shoot at noobs in pickup trucks in far away countries to protect $OUR_WAY_OF_LIFE. Namely, that the Lord Jesus is the One True Savior.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 18, @08:23PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday May 18, @08:23PM (#511812) Journal

      If we could put maneuvering thrusters on the SLS's first stage to allow it to drop and destroy a target in the Middle East, we could afford missions to all of the known dwarf planets.

      --
      [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @08:35PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @08:35PM (#511818)

        While such thinking sometimes seems superficially appealing, it is ultimately counterproductive. Whatever means we would use to kill all those people might also affect OUR oil which is under THEIR sand*. If war is the means of US Policy to get OUR oil from THEIR land, then US policy planners should consider that war may be counterproductive to the policy goal of getting OUR oil from THEIR land. So I wonder if there are other ways to get them to give us OUR oil?

        Or maybe we could become less dependent on oil. And coal. But this seems more like something for the Germany 85% renewables topic.

        If we were ever to become largely energy independent, it would have global consequences.

        * Someone here must see the problem with this assertion about ownership of the oil

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:36PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @08:36PM (#511819)

        Boy, now that sound expensive. Reckon we could cut some taxes and free up gun laws instead. How's them apples, boy?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 18, @08:48PM (6 children)

      by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 18, @08:48PM (#511826)

      I mean, I'm a huge space nerd and all, but this mission sounds pretty marginal for the price. Don't we at least get a flyby of Jupiter or Saturn? Asteroids are interesting I guess but not $2b interesting.

      Does a Pluto flyby realistically get us anything over just swinging by Ceres, or Neptune/Uranus? It's just a small, frigid ball of rock, and it's way the hell out there.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 18, @09:26PM (4 children)

        by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 18, @09:26PM (#511843)

        Plus, since the summary doesn't outright state it, New Horizons already did a flyby and mapped all of Pluto's surface (plus whatever other instruments they threw at it) in 2015.

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 19, @03:43AM

        by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday May 19, @03:43AM (#511993) Journal

        New Horizons also got you [wikipedia.org] a grainy image of Asteroid 132524 APL, and imagery and data from Jupiter and the Galilean moons, including a volcanic plume over Io. Now that the Pluto data is in, New Horizons will fly by (486958) 2014 MU69 [wikipedia.org], becoming the first spacecraft in history to fly by an object that was discovered after the spacecraft was launched. That will take place on Jan. 1, 2019. It will also "conduct more distant observations on an additional two dozen objects".

        One of the main goals during the Jupiter encounter was observing its atmospheric conditions and analyzing the structure and composition of its clouds. Heat-induced lightning strikes in the polar regions and "waves" that indicate violent storm activity were observed and measured. The Little Red Spot, spanning up to 70% of Earth's diameter, was imaged from up close for the first time.[88] Recording from different angles and illumination conditions, New Horizons took detailed images of Jupiter's faint ring system, discovering debris left over from recent collisions within the rings or from other unexplained phenomena. The search for undiscovered moons within the rings showed no results. Travelling through Jupiter's magnetosphere, New Horizons collected valuable particle readings.[88] "Bubbles" of plasma that are thought to be formed from material ejected by the moon Io, were noticed in the magnetotail.[90]

        --
        [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @08:41PM (10 children)

    by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @08:41PM (#511822)

    I don't even want to think about what it takes to send an automated robot to Pluto, and the technical problems of braking it without breaking it. It seems like the craft would need to skim the planet and form a very long elipse that brings it back by the planet again, each time braking some more. The number of maneuvers, the speed, the precision all make my head spin.

    And this is all done with something far away that nobody will ever see. Sure, we get data back. But to us on Earth, this is all happening in a black box. No real time remote control. Nothing we'll ever see with our eyes, or probably with any telescope. No 2nd chances.

    I'm sure Pluto is vastly more massive than the spacecraft. But Pluto seems small.

    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Thursday May 18, @08:45PM (7 children)

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 18, @08:45PM (#511825) Journal

      I'm sure Pluto is vastly more massive than the spacecraft. But Pluto seems small.

      Indeed, perhaps even dwarf-like.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @09:11PM (6 children)

        by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @09:11PM (#511834)

        Pluto probably seems very large if you try to pitch a tent on it to sleep overnight. But maybe not so easy to precisely navigate to at high speed and after a long journey where navigational error accumulates. Certainly not like a gas giant.

        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bob_super on Thursday May 18, @09:24PM (4 children)

          by bob_super (1357) on Thursday May 18, @09:24PM (#511840)

          Considering that they didn't go splat on Pluto, nor missed it by a million miles, having designed the probe long ago,
          considering also the amazing orbits we can get out of a decade-old probe, going between Saturn and its rings,
          considering that other probe which traveled well over a decade before orbiting a comet,
          considering that those people who are really good at orbital mechanics now have computers 100 times more powerful than they did then,
          considering that they're talking about a takeoff in 5 to 10 years, which usually means 15+,
          I wouldn't worry about NASA/ESA's ability to achieve the expected orbit around pretty much any body, as long as nothing hard-fails nor uses imperial units...

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @09:44PM (3 children)

            by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @09:44PM (#511848)

            Given how many things can go wrong. It's amazing it works at all.

            My post was really to highlight what an accomplishment it is. The navigation. Achieving orbit. After a long trip. At high speed. I didn't mention the harsh conditions. How do you even make machines work under such conditions, and the launch conditions.

            It would be good if we could get rid of imperial units. But a large part of the country is ignorant and proud of it. I have trouble believing many Americans could adapt to metric.

            • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Thursday May 18, @11:29PM (1 child)

              by butthurt (6141) on Thursday May 18, @11:29PM (#511892) Journal

              > It would be good if we could get rid of imperial units.

              Be careful what you wish for:

              The gallon (/ˈɡælən/) is a unit of measurement for liquid capacity in both the US customary units and the British imperial systems of measurement. Three significantly different sizes are in current use: the imperial gallon defined as 4.54609 litres, which is used in the United Kingdom, Canada, and some Caribbean nations; the US gallon defined as 231 cubic inches (3.785 L), which is used in the US and some Latin American and Caribbean countries; and the least-used US dry gallon defined as 1⁄8 US bushel (4.405 L).

              -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_gallon [wikipedia.org]

              • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday May 19, @01:52PM

                by DannyB (5839) on Friday May 19, @01:52PM (#512169)

                At least we don't measure velocity in atto parsecs per micro fortnight.

            • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 19, @12:09AM

              by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 19, @12:09AM (#511911) Journal

              NASA went metric in 2007 afaik since the loss of the Mars orbiter hurt a lot.

              As for the mission. Interesting but the question is what will we gain from this?

              A mission that would give key data is to send a human to live on the moon for a year to see the physiological changes that occurs when the gravity is only partial 1G but not zero. Preferably using a twin pair. As it is right now, there's is no clue at all to this. No data. The cost can be kept reasonable. SpaceX is about to send two persons on a moon flyby in 2018 for a cost comparable to a ISS crewed mission. Landing shouldn't be that expensive. The cost is likely to be in creating a underground habitat needed to dodge radiation.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @11:54PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @11:54PM (#511907)

          I'd solve it all by using double instead of float. That would blow the minds of those cowboys at NASA. Doubles mother fucka, DOUBLES.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 18, @09:24PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday May 18, @09:24PM (#511841) Journal

      The missions to Ceres and 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko have shown that it can be done. And well. Ion engines have changed the game.

      The biggest risk of the New Horizons mission was the possibility of unseen small debris in orbit destroying the craft. That risk has been cleared away.

      --
      [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by choose another one on Friday May 19, @09:28AM

        by choose another one (515) on Friday May 19, @09:28AM (#512097)

        > small debris in orbit destroying the craft. That risk has been cleared away.

        Wait, Pluto has cleared its orbit? Yay! Promotion to the big-boys planet league awaits...

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Thursday May 18, @09:41PM (3 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 18, @09:41PM (#511846) Journal

    An orbiter for Pluto is cool and all, but I'd really prefer Neptune first. Especially, as pointed out in the summary, with Neptune's moon Triton probably being from the same class of objects as Pluto.

    Planet 9, if and when it is found, is so far away it will be a challenge to reach. A New Horizons clone can't do it. Might need a century or more to reach Planet 9 at the same speed as New Horizons, and its power supply won't last that long. We could send a far smaller probe at a much faster speed, but then it will only be able to do a flyby, not enter orbit.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday May 18, @09:46PM

      by DannyB (5839) on Thursday May 18, @09:46PM (#511850)

      Neptune's moons would likely be more interesting than Neptune itself.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 18, @11:02PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday May 18, @11:02PM (#511882) Journal

      It seems like NASA will always prefer Jupiter and Saturn missions over even one new mission to Uranus and Neptune (Voyager 2 visited both). You can get a spacecraft to Jupiter substantially quicker, and Europa and Enceladus are priority targets due to the possibility of life under the surface.

      Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer [wikipedia.org] and Europa Clipper [wikipedia.org] launch in 2022.

      Obviously we have to take a deep breath and find Planet Nine first (making sure it exists and locating it). The good news there is that the James Webb Space Telescope will (hopefully) launch next year, providing far better imagery of Planet Nine and any of its moons than other telescopes could.

      Maybe it would be easier to insert an orbiter at Planet Nine than at Pluto due to Planet Nine's larger gravity. Increased velocity of the spacecraft could counteract that though.

      --
      [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, @12:00AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, @12:00AM (#511909)

      We need to think outside the box guys. While you punks bicker about Neptune and Uranaus, the rest of the Universe is sitting there waiting for us to discover it. In a few short billion years we could understand the cosmos. Neptune's moons will seem so pathetic in hindsight. Give up!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, @12:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, @12:27PM (#512139)

    Using the Space Launch System (SLS) could reduce travel time compared to the nine-and-half-year journey of New Horizons

    Faster how? For inter-planetary travel you have three options: Transfer orbit, Transfer orbits plus gravity assist and simply powering through (aka. impulse speed, Mr. Zulu).

    New Horizons did the gravity assist thing, and SLS won't have the fuel to power through, so how would SLS reduce travel time?

    (There may be better options for gravity assist, but those depend on the positions of moons and/or planets, and SLS doesn't have the power to move those either).

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