Conesnsio is pleased to announce the discovery of a potential new ski resort. Pluto! At three billion miles away, the transfer time might be lengthy and the cost of ski hire a little higher than average, but remember that with Consensio anything is possible.
After nine and a half years, the NASA spacecraft – New Horizons – has reached its destination. Had any stray icy debris collided with the spacecraft, it would have been lethal and so scientists and engineers at mission headquarters in Laurel, Maryland were delighted when data received in the spacecraft’s first call home reported it had experienced no upsets. Having avoided any ice debris, the craft passed by Pluto in just three minutes. “This is a tremendous moment in human history,” says chief John Grunsfeld, the agency’s science chief: “The spacecraft is full of images and we can’t wait.” Preliminary data are full of mysteries that will take years to unfold. The full amount of fly-by data will take sixteen months to relay back to earth. The images released this week are but a whetting of scientific and skiing appetites.
Pictures taken by the spacecraft show that the dwarf planet has nitrogen snow on it (making it potentially ideal for skiing!). Surface temperatures on Pluto appear extremely cold, ranging from -172 to -238 degrees C. In an interview with the BBC, Mission Chief Alan Stern confirmed, “Pluto has strong atmospheric cycles, it snows on the surface, the snows sublimate and go back into the atmosphere each 248 year orbit.” The planet has a varied terrain with what appears to be large snowfields and mountains (perfect for testing your skills!). The latest images show chains of 11,000 ft (3,500 metre) high mountains made of water ice. The peaks — seemingly formed from Pluto’s icy bedrock — appeared to be a mere 100 million years old. “Who would have supposed that there were ice mountains?” project scientist Hal Weaver said. Team member, Fran Bagenal’s says because of this climate and terrain, Pluto would be inappropriate for skiing because the snow would be too hard-packed but here at Consensio, no challenge is too big!
If you like skiing so much to say you love skiing, then you will be shocked and thrilled to hear that Pluto has a heart! For 60 years scientists have been aware of a bright mass on Pluto, but only with the increased resolution provided by the cameras on board New Horizons has its distinctive heart shape been revealed. The heart-shaped patch of frost, much loved on social media, is understood to have been caused by an impact at some point in Pluto’s history. The heat that appears to be shaping Pluto may be coming from energy released by the gradual freezing of an underground ocean.
“I can’t express how I feel. It’s just like we planned it!” says Mission operations manager, Alice Bowman. NASA’s administrator Charles Bolden commented: “With this mission, we have visited every single planet in the Solar System.” (It is about time we have visited one with skiing potential!)