Skip to content

New Horizons program on Discovery

by tgposzadmin on May 12th, 2007

jupiter_zoomLast weekend I saw a program on the New Horizons Spacecraft on the Discovery Channel, and while this was a great program and very informative, I was disappointed about one fact that continued to be misrepresented. I cannot find a link to the show itself on the Discovery Channel website, because I’d like to view the whole program again.

I found the artwork of the spacecraft itself by Mike Derer.

I wrote about the subject matter I was disappointed in back in September, 2006 (here and here) when the whole Pluto is a planet or not stuff was going on. Journalism has a duty to inform the public, but when poor diagrams are utilized, the facts are misinterpreted.

New Horizons lifted off on 1/19/2006 and after a little more than a year, just had a Jupiter flyby in order to gain a speed boost, but trading the increase in speed for a little loss of Jupiter’s rotational momentum. It’s speed after launch was 16.21 km/s (36,260 mph) making it the fastest spacecraft so far, but as it approached Jupiter at 23 km/s (51,449 mph) relative to the sun. After the Jupiter flyby, on 2/28/2007, the gravity assist increased the spacecraft’s speed by nearly 4 km/s (8,947 mph).

Even with the increase in speed, New Horizons will not get to the Pluto flyby until 7/14/2015, a little more than 8 years from now. The program mentioned this, but only stating these facts in passing, sort of letting the viewer figure it out. In fact, the pictures they showed were very similar to the inaccurate ones you used to see in text books, or similar to the planet models your kids make in school.

  • one year to get to Jupiter
  • 8 more years to get to Pluto
  • without the gravity assist from Jupiter, it would have been 10-12 years to get to Pluto

Gee, it must be pretty big distances involved out there…

Well, as a matter of fact, yes they are very big distances… So here was an opportunity to inform the public, be a little more descriptive with the facts, but they didn’t quite put the facts out there in the right manner.

From → Misc

One Comment
  1. Good post, Tom. You’re completely right about reporting having a responsibility to provide appropriate and accurate images – I made a similar point about a very different issue, live reporting of Presidential debates, a few days ago – Next Time Tell Us Whose Hand is Up – but the same illogic in misreporting or non-reporting the visual aspects of an important apply.

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS