Other findings released today include preliminary indications that Pluto's atmospheric pressure has dropped sharply from early observations. This may indicate that the atmosphere is in the process of freezing and falling to Pluto's surface. Finally, new close-up pictures of the surface transmitted back to Earth show direct evidence of nitrogen ice floes reminiscent of glacier movement on Earth. The dwarf planet also seems to be rich in methane ice and carbon dioxide ice.
"People with sclerosteosis lack a protein that acts as a brake on bone growth. Without that protein, bones grow abnormally thick. It stood to reason, researchers thought, that a drug that could block the protein in patients with osteoporosis would encourage bone regrowth. Amgen's scientists created hundreds of antibodies that they tested to determine which might be able to get in the way of the protein. It took them three and a half years of research before they were able to identify the best antibody to inhibit the protein. Then NASA came calling." It's an unfortunate situation for those with the rare conditions; there's a lot more potential profit in finding a way to genetically prevent pain for billions of people than it is to cure the handful with the condition.
- 1. Sound triangulation led them to identify a strut holding helium tank as root cause where the falling helium tank pinched a line causing overpressure in the LOX tank.
- 2. The failure occurred at 2,000 pounds of force, and the struts were rated at 10,000 pounds of force. They initially dismissed this as a cause until sounds triangulation pointed back to the strut
- 3. Further testing of struts in stock found one that failed at 2,000 pounds of force, with further analysis identifying poor grain structure in the metal, which caused weakness
- 4. It will be months before the next launch while SpaceX goes over procurement and QA processes all struts and bolts, and re-assesses any "near misses" with Air Force and NASA
- 5. Next launch will include failure mode software, which will allow recovery of the Dragon module during loss of the launch vehicle since they determined that it could have saved the Dragon module in this lost mission
NASA has released other new findings from the Pluto region, as well. Pluto is trailed by a region of cold, ionized gas ripped away from its atmosphere by the solar wind. We've also gotten a close look at Charon, Pluto's biggest moon. One unusual feature is a sizable mountain rising from an even larger depression in the moon's surface. On top of that, NASA has released the first look at Nix, a tiny satellite of Pluto roughly 40 km in diameter. The image is highly pixelated, but we should get a better image tomorrow, during New Horizon's Saturday downlink. The NY Times has a gallery of images, which also includes pictures of Hydra (another small moon) and a different shot of the Pluto's plains area.
Pictures from closest approach are not yet available. Expect another post late Wednesday or early Thursday with those images. The reason for this is that New Horizons can't take pictures and send them to us at the same time, so imaging activity is interspersed with downlinks to Earth to transmit data. Emily Lakdawalla has posted a downlink schedule. On Wednesday afternoon (ET), the probe will transmit three images of Pluto that were taken from 77,000km away, with a resolution of 0.4 km per pixel. They'll be the first three pieces of a mosaic of Pluto's surface, and the dwarf planet will fill all three frames. It will take a full 16 months for New Horizons to transmit all the data it collects. (Lakdawalla also added Pluto to a montage of the biggest non-planets in the solar system. New Horizon's measurements indicate Pluto is slightly larger than we thought. It's now considered the largest of the Kuiper Belt objects.)