New Horizons spacecraft back to normal after suffering terrifying glitch this weekend

Posted: July 6, 2015 by oldbrew in exploration, Travel

Squeaky bum time over at NASA for the team handling the Pluto probe with a sudden technical hitch – now resolved – days before the crucial fly-by, reports The Verge.

The New Horizons team is breathing a big sigh of relief this Monday. Over the weekend, the NASA team resolved a glitch that caused their Pluto probe to go into “safe mode” on July 4th. The spacecraft switched to its backup computer and briefly ceased communication with ground control.

After a couple hours of analysis and troubleshooting, mission researchers reported that they identified the issue, and the spacecraft is back to normal. Regular science operations will resume on July 7th, with the probe still on track for its July 14th flyby.

According to a NASA update, a “hard-to-detect flaw” in the probe’s command sequence surfaced when the team executed an operation to prepare for the upcoming Pluto flyby. Fortunately, neither the spacecraft’s software or hardware were damaged during the incident. NASA also noted that no operations like this one will occur again before the Pluto rendezvous, so the glitch shouldn’t cause any further grief.

The anomaly caused a stir over the weekend — it’s hard to troubleshoot a spacecraft that’s 3 billion miles from Earth. Radio signals traveling at light speed take 4.5 hours to reach the probe, so two-way communication takes 9 hours. NASA didn’t give concrete details about how they resolved the issue so quickly.

New Horizons has been traveling through space for more than nine years to reach Pluto. After spending a majority of its mission time in hibernation mode, the probe became active once again this January. Since then, New Horizons has been sending back numerous images of the dwarf planet during its approach, bringing Pluto and its moons into incredible focus.

Original report: New Horizons spacecraft back to normal after suffering terrifying glitch this weekend | The Verge.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Nine years travel for nothing would be hard to explain to the paymasters 😐

    Update: ‘$728 million mission’ – Washington Post

  2. Phew! ☺ As this is the first but also the last Pluto mission…

  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    Very good news it’s back online. Really looking forward to more views of Pluto.

  4. TA says:

    After all these years we are going to get good, close-up views of Pluto and its moons. Marvelous. A wonderful time to be alive if you like astronomy. There’s so much going on, it’s hard to keep up with sometimes.

    This is what NASA is good at.


  5. oldbrew says:

    It seems the Pluto probe’s computer can’t ‘walk and chew gum at the same time’.

    ‘New Horizons strained its processing power by working on two tasks at once’

    Nearly became No Horizons :/

  6. Anything is possible says:

    [mod note] that’s a NASA graphic

  7. hunter says:

    If I recall, the computer that runs a spacecraft is programmed to essentially do an automatic reboot from safe mode when something triggers a conflict.

    [reply] that’s correct according to the reports

  8. oldbrew says:

    NASA graphic:

    It’s more a binary planet system, less a planet + moon.