January 19, 2010

Today's Tune: "Last Horizon" By Brian May

Brian May at Brixton Academy in Brixton, S. London, England March 28, 2005.

New Horizons, an unmanned NASA robotic spacecraft, was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, USA on January 19, 2006. The mission of the probe is mainly to study the dwarf planet Pluto and it's three moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra.

The New Horizons craft, last mission in NASA's New Frontiers mission category, was built primarily by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD. Final testing before sending it to Cape Canaveral was completed at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD.

New Horizons was launched directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory. The probe was rocketed away from Earth at a relative velocity of about 10.10 miles per second (16.26 km / second), which equals about 36,373 miles per hour (58,536 km / hour), after its last engine was shut down. That means it left at the fastest speed ever recorded for a man-made object. Still, it won't reach Pluto, which is situated in this side of the Kuiper Belt, until July of 2015.

Cover of December 1993 "Last Horizon" Live single.

That doesn't mean nine years of non-productive inactivity for the spacecraft. It passed the half way point in late December of 2009. Before that, New Horizons passed the orbit of the planet Mars and then tested it's tracking capabilities on a small asteroid (132524 APL) successfully, while flying directly through the asteroid belt within our solar system. It's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took photographs of Jupiter and Pluto in September of 2006. While New Horizons temporarily regained some speed, with a gravity assist from our largest planet in early 2007, it also collected and confirmed data on Jupiter, it's inner moons and Galilean moons. The probe flew by Saturn in June of 2008.

New Horizons will pass by the planets Uranus and Neptune, before greeting Pluto and it's moons. After that, there are hopes of studying a few more objects in the Kuiper Belt, before leaving the solar system.

With New Horizons in mind, I picked the solo instrumental track "Last Horizon" by English musician and astrophysicist Brian May (Queen, Queen + Paul Rogers) for the 'Today's Tune'. The original studio recording was included on the album 'Back To The Light', which was released in the UK on September 28, 1992 and North America February 2, 1993. The first live recording to be released, came out as a single in December of 1993. This video shows the March 28, 2005 Brixton Academy performance in Brixton, South London, England, included on the 'Return Of The Champions' DVD (2005), by Queen + Paul Rogers.

Brian May - "Last Horizon"
Queen + Paul Rogers' 'Return Of The Champions' DVD (2005)

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