“Technically, this was routine, since the wake-up was a procedure that we’d done many times before. Symbolically, however, this is a big deal. It means the start of our pre-encounter operations.” (Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager)
“Our knowledge of Pluto is quite meager … despite the march of technology on the ground, even with the Hubble Space Telescope. New Horizons will write the textbook on the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt.” (Alan Stern, lead researcher at New Horizons)
“New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we’ve never seen, in a place we’ve never been before. For decades we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it’s really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them.” (Hal Weaver, APL,New Horizons project scientist)
New Horizons will commence operations in January 2015, six weeks after the start of this pre-check routine. NASA expects detailed views of the Pluto system by May. The probe will be at its closest to the planet on July 14 and, at that moment, it will send detailed images of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx. After that, it will go on traversing the Kuiper belt, and perhaps go as far as 100 AU from the Sun by 2038, hopefully still transmitting information about this region too.