New Horizons Enters Pluto System

posted: 07/14/15
by: Danny Clemens
Pluto July 14

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft completed its historic flyby of Pluto just before 8:00 a.m. EDT, completing humankind's first reconnaissance of the solar system's family of planets.

Soaring though space at a speed of more than 31,000 miles per hour, the piano-sized spacecraft passed within 8,000 miles of the dwarf planet, mapping the surfaces of Pluto and Charon, its largest moon. The detailed photographs will depict surface features as small as the size of a football field. They are expected to be released on Wednesday morning.

Jubilant countdown to the #PlutoFlyby from mission headquarters.

A video posted by Danny Clemens (@danny.clemens) on

"This is true exploration -- New Horizons is flying into the unknown. Tomorrow morning, we will see the beginning of a 16-month data waterfall," remarked New Horizons principal investigator Alan Sterne.

For the next 12 hours, the spacecraft will continue to execute its science objectives within the Pluto system. New Horizons is expected to phone home to mission control around 9:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, for the first time in almost 22 hours.

Upon completion of its scientific objectives in the Pluto system, New Horizons will continue into the Kuiper Belt. NASA may approve an extension of the mission, in which case New Horizons would study and observe bodies beyond Pluto on its journey into interstellar space. The spacecraft's onboard electrical systems could potentially operate for another two decades, until the mid 2030s.

July 14th is an important day in the history of space exploration -- on this day in 1965, NASA's Mariner 4 spacecraft made its first exploration of Mars.

Learn more about space exploration:

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