There are nine days left for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to flyby Pluto, however on Saturday the spacecraft suffered a computer malfunction and now NASA scientists are working hard to try and revive it.
The craft has been in the solar system since January 2006 and has been heading toward the one out of the five known moons of the dwarf planet. Pluto’s primary moon is called Charon.
NASA published a status report with information about the malfunction, which states that on Saturday an unknown glitch occurred which caused New Horizons to switch to its backup computers and an 81-minute radio silence occurred. All communication was lost with mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
NASA says that it could take one or several days till they fully fix New Horizons malfunction.
“New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during this time.”
This is a lengthy process because New Horizon is at a distance of 3 billion miles from Earth and it takes 4.5 hours for a set of signals or commands to reach the spacecraft.
New Horizon is designed to collect scientific data as it fly’s within 7,800 miles of Pluto on July 14th.
NASA’s earlier missions included Mariner, Pioneer and Voyager missions that first explored the solar system.
Massive amounts of fuel are required for a spacecraft to brake and put itself into Pluto’s orbit because the dwarf planet’s gravity is very weak.
Initially New Horizon journeyed to Pluto in hibernation; it took 9 years for it to get near Pluto. NASA scientists revived the spacecraft in January and began collecting its data.