John SpencerJan 15, 2006

Looking Forward to New Horizons' Launch (15 January 2006)

New Horizons science team member John Spencer just sent me another entry on the preparations for the approaching launch of New Horizons to Pluto. --ESL

Another quick post from the Cape. Yesterday was our final pre-launch meeting of the Science Team. The mood was quite different from previous meetings, which are normally enjoyable but fairly sober affairs. People were breaking into applause for the engineering team as they described the success of the final tests before launch, and congratulations were being passed around. We're all pretty high. Project Manager Glen Fountain always shows a chart at these meetings, describing his list of top worries -- things that might still go wrong and jeopardize the mission. Yesterday, the list was empty. Our Principal Investigator, Alan Stern, the driving force behind this mission, gave his own retrospective at the end of the meeting, starting all the way back when he started pushing for this mission while still a graduate student in the late 1980s. Much laughter as people recognized their much younger looking selves and colleagues on the screen. What will we look like when we finally get to Pluto, nine years hence???

Tomorrow morning is the rollout. The science team will have the great privilege of watching New Horizons take the first step in its journey, the few hundred yards from its tall narrow hangar, the Vertical Integration Facility, to the launch pad, just over 24 hours before our first launch opportunity. It's hard to avoid breaking into clichés, so I won't try- all systems are go!John will be sending me occasional updates on New Horizons throughout the launch, and I'll post them here. Thanks John!

Also, don't miss the new contest opportunity we have posted, a New Horizons Digital Time Capsule. --ESL

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