…and you’re complaining about that download time, huh?
So, yeah… New Year’s Day, early in the wee hours of the morning, there was a celebration of another type going on at my job. The photo above explains it all – it’s a certificate marking a historic event of a flyby of a mission by NASA and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
In short, I’ll explain what happens next, a process that is typical of all space missions that gather images for relay back to earth for science processing. Such images are stored on the spacecraft, just as you would save them to your mobile device, computer, or the cloud, until transmission to earth takes place. The New Horizon spacecraft has SSD (solid state drives – hard drives) that store the images taken of Ultimate Thule as the flyby occurred. In this case, during the flyby, it was known that the spacecraft would “go dark” (meaning that there would be no communications with Earth) as the camera was taking the photos – all could go successfully or there could be any kind of anomaly – either way neither could be known in dark mode. Fortunately, communication back to Earth after the flyby sequence essentially meant the spacecraft saying “Hey, my SSD is full and I’m going to start sending you images back to you!” – which is just what began happening. The interesting thing with the design of this is NASA wanted to study the images as soon as possible BUT in order to do so, low resolution images are the first to be sent because of their size with respect to the distance from Earth the spacecraft is. It will be *two years* from now until any hi-res images will reach Earth. So…the next time you’re crying about how lonnnnnng it’s taking to download your file (raises hands)….think about the Ultima Thule images 😏🙂.