Hey Space Placers!
What do three spacecraft - Chang'e 3 and rover Yutu, New Horizons and Rosetta - have in common? All 3 have experienced hibernation or sleep mode during their missions. This is done by spacecraft controllers to protect the spacecraft from extreme cold and to conserve resources such as power and fuel during long transits to a destination.
The Chinese lunar lander and rover went into hibernation during the holidays to protect the two from the extreme cold of the lunar night and were awakened on January 12th to begin science operations.
New Horizons was awakened on January 5th to begin preparations for next year's flyby of Pluto. Launched on January 19, 2006, New Horizons is now over 2 billion miles from Earth and preparing for a busy year of pre-flyby operations and preparations. New Horizons will go back into hibernation again and wake up December 7th to begin final preps for flyby of Pluto beginning January 12, 2015. I can hardly wait for Pluto flyby - it is going to be historic.
Rosetta will be roused on January 20th after 957 days of hibernation. This ambitious cometary exploration mission will rendezvous with Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August 2014 and begin mapping the comet to determine the best landing site for the Philae lander in November 2014. This will be an amazing mission as we will get long term views and data of an active comet plus the first ever touchdown on a cometary nucleus. Philae will drill into the nucleus and give us composition data as well. That is impressive.
I will continue to follow each of these missions and share with you events as they happen. I can hardly wait.
Sky Guy in VA
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