Pluto and the miracle of energy

The most unbelievable thing in this mission was to create a power source to reach Pluto.

plutoSource : NASA

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft accomplished one of the most exciting feats in the history of space exploration. After 3 billion miles journey the mission flyby of Pluto has given us views of this frozen dwarf planet.

NASA engineering set up in 2006 a long-lasting, compact and incredibly reliable power source that can last long time, about 9 years and half.

History

Pluto is now classified as a dwarf planet because it is not a « proper » planet.

During years, we believed it was the last planet of our solar system but it isn’t.

Clyde Tombaugh, an astromer, discovered Pluto in 1930.

Which kind of energy ?

Solar power was totally foolish. Because just a tiny fraction of the intensity we have on earth would be received by the spacecraft.

For New Horizons, the answer lay in the power of plutonium. The type of this power source was a Radioisotope Thermoelectrique Generator (RTG). The RTG provides about 200 Watts of electricity to the spacecraft.

This power source is the result of cooperation with several laboratory like Los Alamos National Laboratoy in New Mexico, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Savannah River Site. The final product was assembled at Idaho National Laboratory in September 2005.

New Horizon has reached Pluto but now its RTG will keep it warm and watchful as it ventures into the outer reaches of our solar system….this is not the end !

Sources :

http://www.bbc.com/

http://www.energy.gov/

 

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