New Horizons temporarily loses contact with Earth

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Engineers lost contact with New Horizons for an hour and twenty-one minutes on Saturday.

Engineers have since begun talking with the probe again, but NASA says it will take up to several days to get New Horizons back to normal. In the meantime, the US$700-million spacecraft is not recording science data. It is just 11 million kilometres from Pluto, and closing in fast.

Communication issues are exacerbated by the fact that it takes four and a half hours to send a signal, traveling at light speed, across the nearly 4.8 billion kilometres to the spacecraft — and four and a half hours back. In that elapsed time, the Earth has rotated so much that mission controllers must switch from one to another of the three deep-space antennas that communicate with spacecraft: in Goldstone, California; Canberra; and Madrid.

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