The latest image of Pluto taken 16 hours before the probe arrived. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has confirmed today that the New Horizons probe has successfully made its closest approach to Pluto.
After an epic journey spanning almost ten years and covering three billion miles NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has finally arrived at the small, distant world of Pluto.
Right now the probe has entered in to its data-gathering mode which means it will be out of contact with controllers on Earth until later on today when a signal is expected to indicate that all is well.
“Pluto was discovered just 85 years ago by a farmer’s son from Kansas, inspired by a visionary from Boston, using a telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona,” said NASA’s John Grunsfeld.
“Today, science takes a great leap observing the Pluto system up close and flying into a new frontier that will help us better understand the origins of the solar system.”
Because there is so much data and because the probe is so far away it will take a while for the first high-resolution photographs to be sent back. At its closest approach New Horizons skimmed past Pluto at a distance of approximately 7,750 miles from its surface.
“The New Horizons team is proud to have accomplished the first exploration of the Pluto system,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. “This mission has inspired people across the world with the excitement of exploration and what humankind can achieve.”
Once the flyby is complete it will take New Horizons 16 months to return all its data to Earth.