NASA’s New Horizons mission team has announced they will begin to downlink the data collected and stored by the spacecraft that made history on July 14 when it performed the first flyby of planet Pluto. Unedited pictures of the planet will be posted every Friday from September 11.

New Horizons was designed to collect as much information as it could during its flyby mission to Pluto, which was then stored to its digital recorders for later transmission to the Earth. What researchers of NASA received since late July was lower data-rate information collected by the energetic particle, solar wind and space dust instruments.

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic July 14 Encounter with Pluto. Credit: NASA
NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic July 14 Encounter with Pluto. Credit: NASA

Nonetheless,  since past Sunday, the spacecraft has sent many more information, like flyby images , which were taken from a 7,800-mile distance, although it counts for only 5% of the data. The other 95% is expected to reach Earth in the next 12 months. This material will help scientists to better understand the history of the planet and the Solar System.

“The New Horizons mission has required patience for many years, but from the small amount of data we saw around the Pluto flyby, we know the results to come will be well worth the wait,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

A long wait

To start with, New Horizons is currently located 3 billion miles away from the Earth, this counts as 120,000 circumnavigations of the Earth in a straight line.

Recently, NASA’s New Horizons space exploration team announced its second mission, targeting Kuiper Belt object (KBO) dubbed PT 1 as its next stop. The object sits 1 billion miles further than Pluto does. That is why the rest of the data will take so long to get to Earth.

According to NASA, to let scientists get highest-resolution imagery, spectral images of Pluto and scientific measurements made within the atmosphere, each ratio signal would take 4.5 hours to reach our planet even though they travel close to the speed of light.

The NASA’s Deep Space Agency, which is a network of ratio dishes located in California, Australia and Europe, is in charge of receiving the data transmitted by the agency’s orbiter.

Source: NASA’s New Horizons