The New Horizons probe is expected to offer the first photos of the terrain of Pluto, its moon Charon, and other Kuiper Belt objects.
The space probe, which has been on a almost decade-long journey to the dwarf planet, briefly entered safe mode on Saturday.
“We’re delighted with the New Horizons response to the anomaly”, said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “In that same time, our unmanned space missions have been even more successful, and the New Horizons probe’s flyby of Pluto is as good an example as any of the United States leading the exploration of our solar system”.
The color version of the July 3 LORRI image was created by adding color data from the Ralph instrument gathered earlier in the mission.
An investigation into the anomaly on July 4 has confirmed that the main computer was overloaded due to a timing conflict in the spacecraft command sequence.
Thirty observations were lost during the three-day recovery period, representing less than one percent of the total science that the New Horizons team hoped to collect between July 4 and July 16.
Luckily, there’s also no risk that this kind of anomaly could happen again before the flyby, as there are no similar operations planned for the remainder of the trip.
“Pluto’s reddish color has been known for decades, but New Horizons is now allowing us to correlate the color of different places on the surface with their geology and soon, with their compositions”, said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.
The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen close-up by New Horizons on July 14. In February, the spacecraft took two long-exposure images showing two of Pluto’s moons, Hydra and Nix, orbiting the dwarf planet. About half of Pluto is imaged, which means features shown near the bottom of the dwarf planet are at approximately at the equatorial line.
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