A tiny spacecraft has been traveling 9 years for this moment — the day we finally get a close look at Pluto.
Here’s what you need to know about NASA’s New Horizon’s mission.
NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by Pluto on July 14, capturing history’s first up-close looks at the far-flung world — if all went according to plan. (Mission team members won’t declare success until they hear from New Horizons tonight.) Closest approach came at 7:49 a.m. EDT (1149 GMT), when the spacecraft whizzed within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto’s frigid surface. To celebrate, NASA unveiled the latest photo of Pluto, showing a reddish world with a stunning heart-shaped feature on its face.
It has been 46 years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and just 112 years since the Wright brothers flew their first functioning aircraft. As of this week, an Earth probe has visited each of what were once considered the nine planets of the solar system; the fact that one of them was downgraded to dwarf-planet status has not dampened NASA’s excitement at the prospect of analyzing it in what promises to be stunning detail.
Thanks to the difficulty of transmission and the 4.5-hour time delay between Pluto and Earth, we won’t know the probe’s true status until Wednesday. But for the time being, there is no reason to believe the mission was not successful. Over the coming weeks, New Horizons will continue to transmit photos and other data about Pluto and its moons.
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