Ready for its close-up: First spacecraft to explore Pluto

A space tracking station in Australia will become the first place in the world to receive close-up images of Pluto on Wednesday, after the New Horizons spacecraft breaks its radio silence during today’s flyby.


We’ve made it to Pluto by NASA’s calculations, the last stop on a planetary tour of the solar system a half-century in the making. It culminated an unprecedented journey spanning 9 ½ years and 4.8 billion kilometres (3 billion miles.).

iOS users can also download the New Horizons: a NASA Voyage to Pluto app. This app brings you inside this historic voyage, from the New Horizons spacecraft and its science instruments, to the latest news and pictures, to education programs and activities.

NASA will not get confirmation until Tuesday night if the spacecraft survived, and if it can go on to take more photos. Early Tuesday morning, the NASA New Horizons mission completed its Pluto flyby. It means that over the last 40 years, the United States has sent scientific probes to every planet in the solar system – a record for exploration equal to anything in history.

NASA/Eyes on the Solar SystemIn the live view, the main window shows the spacecraft, Pluto, Pluto’s moon Charon, and few other objects farther out in the Kuiper belt. The spacecraft was 7,800 feet from the dwarf planet.

New Horizons will be at its closest to Pluto for about 24 hours before continuing on its journey to the outer solar system.

“There’s that small element of danger, so I think we’re all going to breathe the final sigh of relief at 9 p.m., and that’s when we can really call it a successful flyby”, Stern said.

NASA said that “Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune”, clearing up ongoing debate about its size, which started when the celestial body was discovered in 1930.

The dwarf planet is only 1,500 miles in diameter – the distance from New York City to Dallas – but it has five moons.

As Stern told reporters Monday, “The Pluto system is enchanting in its strangeness, its alien beauty”.


NASA’s New Horizons probe flew closer to Pluto than any Earth-craft ever has Tuesday, sending back awesome photos of the dwarf planet. “Look what we accomplished”, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman said. That’s a long way for the lil data packets that New Horizons sends home to travel.

On Target: NASA Probe Ready to Punch Through Pluto System : Discovery News