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Space and Physics

New Horizons Phoned Home!

author

Janet Fang

Staff Writer

clockJul 15 2015, 01:09 UTC
1104 New Horizons Phoned Home!
This is an image of Pluto from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. This was taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. NASA/APL/SwRI

Nine-and-a-half years and 3 billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers) later, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has finally completed the first flyby of Pluto and its 5 known moons. 

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After a nail-biting 12 or so hours, the New Horizons team and a huge live audience was ecstatic when -- on Tuesday, July 14, starting around 8:54 pm U.S. eastern time -- they got a confirmation signal from the spacecraft that it had completed its flyby. New Horizons had phoned home to say it was alive and healthy, and several minutes ahead of schedule. The team had no communication with New Horizons at all on Tuesday as it took photos of Pluto and studied the dwarf planet and its moons. The spacecraft was pointing only at Pluto to save precious observation time. 

For more about the status of the spacecraft, tune in to the live stream of NASA's news briefing. It starts at 9:30 p.m. eastern time.

Earlier today, New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto at 7:49 a.m. eastern time about 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface. That’s about the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India. New, close-up images of Pluto’s surface and moons should be coming Wednesday afternoon!


Guests and New Horizons team members countdown to the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. NASA/Bill Ingalls

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"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,” John Grunsfeld of NASA's Science Mission Directorate says in a statement. "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.”

Check out previous IFLScience coverage of the Pluto flyby:

July 14 -- New Horizons Makes Its Closest Approach To Pluto
July 14 -- New Horizons Finally Gets Up Close With Pluto -- For 15 Minutes
July 13 -- New Horizons Will Arrive At Pluto Tomorrow! 

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Watch the briefing here:

 

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


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