New Horizons spacecraft has sent back to each its last bit of data that it collected during its closest flyby of Pluto in July 2015 giving NASA ample amounts of data to work with.
The total amount of science data amounts to a whopping 50 gigabits of information and this will keep the mission scientists and astronomers busy for quite a few months if not years. NASA revealed in a press note that it took New Horizons over 15 months to transmit all the data with the last segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager onboard the New Horizons spacecraft arriving at the mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland at 5:48 a.m. EDT on October 25.
New Horizons launched on January 19, 2006, made its closest approach with Pluto on July 14, 2015, when it flew 12,500 km above the surface of the dwarf planet.
New Horizons has etched itself a place in the history books as the first spacecraft to fly close to Pluto and has provided us wealth of information about the dwarf planet. The amount of data we have with us in unprecedented and as it has continued to amaze scientists for months, it will continue to do so for years to come. Through the data scientists have been able to see how complex the Pluto system is.
The 50 gigabits of information accounts for over 400 scientific observations that have all been sent to Earth. It will take mission scientists months to process them and understand Pluto in even greater detail.
Team will conduct a final data-verification review before erasing the two onboard recorders, and clearing space for new data to be taken during the New Horizons Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) that will include a series of distant Kuiper Belt object observations and a close encounter with a small Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.