New Horizons: The fastest spacecraft ever built

    The human need for space exploration has always been an unending thirst that has yet to be sated. As we gradually move towards a truly digital age, we cannot, cannot let this be the end. We cannot, and will not stop here. As we advance our science and perfect the technology available to us, we need to keep exploring, keep pushing the limits of human mortality. Mankind has always envisioned to discover new worlds, and move beyond the known space. Another such example of limitless human ingenuity is the New Horizons spacecraft.

    Welcome, readers! I am sure you, like me, have been looking for information about the next-big-thing of this century, the New Horizons Spacecraft. In today’s blog, we will talk about the same in detail and provide you with an in-depth review of NASA’s breakthrough achievement, and talk about the implications of its discoveries.

    New Horizons Spacecraft

    Engineers at America’s Johns Hopkins University, with Alan Stern at their head have done an outstanding job with its design, the New Horizons spacecraft being mankind’s fastest machine to date. It is shaped like a piano, with a big satellite dish on top. The New Horizons spacecraft was built with a titanium-zinc alloy made in a triangular shape, different than its predecessors from NASA. As is common in a spacecraft, the lack of heat in the spacecraft was an issue for the engineers at Johns Hopkins. However, they came up with an ingenious plan to blanket the entire structure with black paint to keep the heat locked in, something we study in high school, and never think about it! During travel in the inner solar system, the spacecraft diverts all electronic activity to its radiators and louvres, which open to radiate excess heat built up in the spacecraft.

    New Horizons Mission

    The New Horizons mission is the first mission in NASA’s New Frontiers mission category, which are more costly than its previous Discovery missions, however, less costly than NASA’s Flagship missions. Its budget was 700 million US dollars over a period of 15 years, from 2001 to 2016. Launched from Cape Canaveral on the 19th of January, 2016, the New Horizons mission directives were originally to voyage to the only unexplored planet in our solar system, or a dwarf planet, as it is now called, despite the outrage of the New Horizons mission engineers who still believe that Pluto should be classified as a planet.

    New Horizons Speed

    The New Horizons mission to study the origins of the early solar system, by no means is a minor feat in itself, but when you count in the fact about it being the fastest spacecraft to ever leave earth, it reaches a whole new level of awesome. The New Horizons speed was recorded at 16.26 km/s at its launch, making the spacecraft first to achieve solar escape velocity at its launch( The solar escape velocity near earth is 16.5 km/s, not accounting for drag). The New Horizons’ speed, however, will not be the fastest for a spacecraft to leave the solar system, with Voyager 1 beating it with speeds in excess of 16.98 km/s.

    New Horizons: Ultima Thule

    As the New Horizons spacecraft neared the edge of our solar system, after flying by Pluto, it was directed towards Ultima Thule, the most distant object in our solar system to have been visited by a spacecraft. Ultima Thule was chosen as the target for a fly-by after its discovery by scientists using the Hubble Telescope. A part of the Kuiper Belt, the New Horizons Ultima Thule is made up of two joint bodies and is about 31 km long. As the spacecraft continued its voyage across space, the closest contact between New Horizons-Ultima Thule happened at 12:33 AM on 1st January 2019. With these amazing discoveries happening at the dawn of the new year, we sincerely hope this signals a brighter and better future for all of humanity. Let not the light within us be dimmed with trivial things, for we were born to conquer worlds. With hope anew in our hearts, we at Social Cube wish you, the future adventurers and voyagers, God Speed.

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