New Horizons Co-Investigator Dr. Ralph McNutt to Present SC15 Keynote

We are very pleased to announce Dr. Ralph McNutt, Co-Investigator of New Horizons mission to Pluto (and beyond) will be presenting a Keynote at Starship Congress 2015: Interstellar Hackathon, discussing some background and potential plans for launching an interstellar precursor next decade.

As one of the champions of Interstellar exploration at NASA, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, he has been a member of Icarus Interstellar as a Consultant to Project Icarus, since the inception of the project in 2011. He has been the recipient of a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) award, for the “Realistic Interstellar Explorer” study, and a continuing researcher and congressional consultant for safe, sustainable and affordable Radioisotope Space Nuclear Power systems to enable NASA’s Science and Human Exploration for the next 20 years.

Ralph McNutt (center) with members of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft’s last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach later in the day, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Dr. McNutt is also a co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons (Pluto-Kuiper Belt) mission, a team member of the Cassini Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer investigation and a science team member of two Voyager investigations. He has been involved in a range of space physics research projects and mission studies, including studies of the magnetospheres of the outer planets, the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium, solar neutrinos, and solar probe and interstellar probe missions for the future.

As the world stands elated with the recent images from Pluto and Charon, Dr. McNutt reminds us that “this is still just the beginning as all the encounter data comes down over the next 16 months”. Having caught a mere glimpse its surface and atmospheric system that is far more textured, geologically-diverse, and complicated than most planetary scientists would have ever imagined.

Dr. McNutt continues with a tease of the what promises to be one of the highest points in the conference to say:

Dr. Ralph McNutt, New Horizons Co-Investigator from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, points to the PEPSSI sensor that makes up one of the two instruments comprising New Horizons' Plasma and high-energy particle spectrometer suite. “Having completed the observation part of its primary mission, New Horizons has the opportunity on its way out of the solar system to visit another small Kuiper Belt Object.

Sufficient power exists in the Pu-238 power supply on board to allow the spacecraft continue to gather data on the far interplanetary medium until the mid-2030’s.

New Horizons is now the fifth spacecraft to join its “band of brothers” in heading to the stars. Pioneer 10 and 11 have already fallen silent, as will Voyager 1 and 2 in the 2020’s, as their power supplies also age.

As we look forward, it will be up to us – to all of us on the pale blue dot – to see that New Horizons is not the “Last Starship from Earth”.

— Dr. Ralph McNutt