I noticed in the New Horizon's release time schedule by Emily Lakdawalla/ Planetary Society that after July 20th, there won't be any data returns from New Horizons until September. Why is there a 2 month period of no data being returned?

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    $\begingroup$ During the 2-month period, plenty of data will be returned, just no images. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ That makes sense. Hmmm... $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ Here's a replay of April 14, 2015 media briefing on New Horizons in which Cathy Olkin (New Horizons Deputy project scientist) explains downlink timeline. Here are relevant Olkin's slides: slide 2 and slide 4. More in the press kit (PDF). $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


From the same blog entry you linked to:

The transmission of the High Priority data set will be complete on July 20, and then image transmission will pause. For nearly two months, until September 14, New Horizons will switch to near-real-time downlinking of data from other, so-called "low-speed" instruments while it transmits just housekeeping information for all of the rest of the data. No new images will arrive on the ground during this time.

I read somewhere else that the "housekeeping information" includes e.g. the exact locations where photos were taken. This is seen as vital information (it helps put the data we already received in context), so it was given priority over the full image data.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably most of the image data would be low priority if it wasn't for the fact that publishing charts in news articles aren't as flashy as images. PR is necessary for public support, which is necessary for funding. $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Sending back images before July the 20th tells people on earth very clearly if the thing is pointed at Pluto or not. People would be very unhappy if we received GB of high resolution photos centred on a blank spot 50,000km away from Pluto. There's no point doing Pluto oriented research on the data if the probe missed entirely. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ If that were to happen, there's no way to correct the problem in time due to the 4+ hour it takes for the signal to travel from Pluto to Earth. Also, a few photos will be downloaded before the 20th (in the High Priority data set). $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 6:28

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