I was reading Alan Stern and David Grinspoon's Chasing New Horizons, the story of the quarter-century effort to prepare, enable, and run New Horizons' mission to Pluto. As many readers know, it almost came apart ten days before its closest approach (July 4, 2015) when an unfortunate timing coincidence in the computer workload caused a computer crash.

Three days of round-the-clock work got the spacecraft recovered in time, but a close-up search for small moons, scheduled for July 5-6, was lost. When the craft was recovered on the 7th, it was too close to Pluto to retry this search and too busy with the main flyby program. Why did it not search for moons after leaving the Pluto system and getting far enough away for another suitable panoramic shot? I am guessing one or both of two things:

1) With the craft beyond Pluto the Sun was now too close to Pluto in its cameras' views.

2) Reprogramming to recover the search for the moons was problematic because the spacecraft was occupied with other tasks.

Please elaborate or offer other reasons.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Related (the computer problem): space.stackexchange.com/q/19042/6944 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 21 '20 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ I never knew about the extent of the impact on the science mission, wow! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 22 '20 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Not a definitive answer, but it would be hard to look for moons with the sun behind them. $\endgroup$ – GdD Apr 22 '20 at 8:27

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