Obviously, there is a 4.5 hour time lag so we can't expect live video, but will they have a telecast of some sort showing images as they come in, along with the latest telemetry?

Will there be a livestream by NASA during the Pluto Flyby by New Horizons on the 14th of June?

UPDATE: There is an application called 'Eyes by NASA' developed by JPL which shows a very detailed 3-D simulation of the New Horizons flyby, as well as details about the instruments and what they are focussed on. Watching Eyes on Pluto during the flyby, in real-time mode, would be a similar experience to watching it live.

  • $\begingroup$ If it could be live TV, I suppose it would be like sitting in an ordinary airplane watching through the window. Interesting the first few minutes, then you start reading the newspaper instead. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Jul 11, 2015 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ At the moment, the flyby is in progress, and the live simulation is pretty lively with the probe pointing at this and that. The Eyes app shows just where the probe is looking at any moment. $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2015 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


There's no point in having a live stream, because we won't receive encounter data in real time. On the 14th, New Horizons will be busy aiming its instruments at Pluto. Due to the design of the spacecraft, it can't do that and transmit information at the same time. The cameras and antenna are all fixed in place, so they have to rotate the entire spacecraft to aim them, and with the cameras pointed at Pluto the antenna doesn't point at Earth.
New Horizons will send one photo on July 13th, a few photos on July 15th and 16th, and more data will follow later. It will take until November 2016 to download everything.

Through July 12, New Horizons will take regular LORRI photos of Pluto, Charon, Nix, and Hydra, which will mostly be returned soon after acquisition because they are used for optical navigation.

On Sunday, July 12, New Horizons will transmit the last of its optical navigation data. These images will have lower resolution than the images we have already received from Dawn at Ceres. Then, on Sunday and Monday, July 12 and 13, there will be a series of four "Fail Safe" downlinks. These are designed to return a minimum set of data from all instruments, just in case New Horizons does not survive the flyby. A last downlink ending overnight Monday July 13, called "E-Health 1," will include one last pre-closest approach photo of Pluto.

  • $\begingroup$ Will there be any "navcam" types of images with low resolution, meant to aid the operation of the probe rather than do science? $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    May 31, 2015 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ There will be navigation images before the encounter, I've added the info to my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    May 31, 2015 at 18:43

No. NASA will release select low resolution images as shortly after the flyby as they can. They won't release any imagery during the flyby because the spacecraft won't be communicating with the Earth during the flyby. The focus of the mission during the flyby is observing Pluto. Sending data to the Earth runs directly against the grain of the primary mission.

There are two issues at hand. One is that New Horizons doesn't have a scan platform. This means that the high-gain antenna is fixed with respect to the spacecraft, as are all of the scientific payloads. This creates a conflict during the flyby: Should New Horizons point it's antenna Earthward, or should it point its sensors toward Pluto? It can't do both. The answer is obvious: New Horizons needs to orient itself so that its payloads are pointed toward Pluto during the flyby, and that means the antenna is not pointed toward the Earth.

The other issue is data rate. The post-encounter downlink rate is expected to be 1 kbps (1000 bits per second). If you were around when the web was first created in the mid 1990s, you may remember how painstakingly long it took to receive even low resolution images from some web site. The typical mid 1990s modem was 16 times faster than the New Horizons post-encounter downlink. Several minutes will be needed to transmit a highly compressed, low resolution black and white image. A high resolution image will take hours. It will take a long, long time for New Horizons to downlink all of the data that it recorded before, during, and after the flyby.


Just as support to already existing answers, here's to the question the most relevant excerpt from NASA Announces Television Coverage, Media Activities for Pluto Flyby:


July 14

7:30 a.m. – Media Briefing: Arrival at Pluto, Inside the Pluto System and New Horizons’ Perilous Path (live on NASA TV)

At 7:49 a.m., the New Horizons spacecraft will make history as flies past Pluto, after a journey of more than nine years and 3 billion miles. For much of the day the New Horizons spacecraft will be out of communication with mission control as it gathers data on Pluto and its moons.

The moment of closest approach will be marked with a live NASA TV broadcast that includes a countdown, a discussion of images and data received thus far, and what’s expected next as New Horizons makes its way past Pluto and potentially dangerous debris. Follow the path of the spacecraft in real time with a visualization of the actual trajectory data, using NASA’s Eyes on Pluto.

9 a.m. – noon -- Interview Opportunities (no NASA TV coverage)

Informal group briefings and availability for one-on-one interviews. An updated schedule will be posted in the New Horizons Media Center.

Noon – 3 p.m. – Panel Discussions (no NASA TV coverage)

  • New Horizons mission overview and history
  • Pluto system discoveries on approach
  • Mariner 4 and Pluto: 50 years to the day

8 – 9:15 p.m. -- NASA TV program, Phone Home, broadcast from APL Mission Control

NASA TV will share the suspenseful moments of this historic event with the public and museums around the world. The New Horizons spacecraft will send a preprogrammed signal after the close approach. The mission team on Earth should receive the signal at about 9:02 p.m. When New Horizons “phones home,” there will be a celebration of its success and the anticipation of data to come over the days and months ahead.

9:15 – 10 p.m. -- Media Briefing: New Horizons Health and Mission Status (live on NASA TV)


All times are in EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) and this schedule is subject to change. For mentioned NASA activities that won't be covered on NASA TV, and also other New Horizons related activities organized by other organizations, please follow updates to our Chat Room Schedule and join us in our main chat room as events begin, where we discuss them and share links to where they can be accessed from live and/or as recordings. Invitation extends also to non-related to New Horizons events that we schedule there. Welcome!

And here are New Horizons' scheduled transmission dates, from June 20 to July 23 Observation Playbook (PDF):

  • Approach Hi Speed Playback – Before July 12th, 2015 (Before DOY 193)
  • Fail Safe – July 12-13th, 2015 (DOY 193-194)
  • E_HEALTH_1 & Phone Home – July 14th, 2015 (DOY 195)
  • 1st Look Playback – July 15-16th, 2015 (NYTimes datasets) (DOY 196-197)
  • Early High Priority – July 17-20th, 2015 (DOY 198-201)
  • Browse Playback (lossy) – all high speed data sent back Sept. 14th - Nov. 18th, 2015 (DOY 257-332)
  • Full Playback (lossless) – all data sent back between Nov. 18th, 2015 and Oct. 2016

Note: EDT runs March 8th – Nov. 1st, 2015 (DOY 67–305 – switches half way through Browse)


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