One thousand seven hundred and twenty nine days, eight hours 55 minutes and counting. Distance flown more than two billions miles. You may wonder what are these figures. Any guess? It is the length of time and distance Nasa's New Horizons mission to Pluto has flown since its launch in January 2006. It has another 1733 days to reach Pluto which is expected to be on July 14, 2015.
The mission, the first one to Pluto, has proved that space belongs to students. And this fact was established on October 10,2010--the space month. On this day, when the international space week was drawing to a close, a student project broke the world record for flying the maximum distant in space---beyond two billion miles.
What is known as the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC) on board the New Horizons mission flew that massive distance past the orbit of Uranus.The main role of this instrument is to study space dust which is expected to advance one's understanding of the solar system, its origin and evolution.
It is the first science payload on a planetary mission designed, tested and operated by students. It was planned by the students of the University of Colorado's Laboratory For Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). Initially, there were 20 students involved in this project which increased as the programme expanded. Six months after the launch of New Horizons, SDC was renamed after Venetia Burney in honour of the English school girl who named Pluto.
New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and and its moons, Charon, Nix and Hydra.
Talking about students and space, the man who is sparing no efforts to promote the involvement of the younger generation in space celebrates his birthday today.
He is none other than APJ Abdul Kalam. His dream of launching a student satellite will hopefully become a reality in December 2010, when YouthSat is launched--a joint Indo-Russian venture.
Happy Birthday Dr Kalam. Wish u great starry days ahead.