New Horizons an interplanetary space probe launched by NASA in 2006 flew by Pluto yesterday (14/July/2015). History was made as New Horizons captured the first-ever close-up images of Pluto.
It was about 7.49am EDT when this historical event (Pluto flyby) happened. At 12500 KM above Pluto’s icy cold surface, New Horizons took the astonishing picture.
As, celebration NASA had unveiled a low-res Instagram image which was quickly (after few hours) followed by a high-res image of Pluto.
It appears as a reddish dwarf with a distinctive heart-shaped mark on its surface.
Glen Fountain, the mission project manager from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, told Space.com that New Horizons is a “capstone mission”. He said,
“It is the completion of this initial reconnaissance of our solar system. It’s giving us a new perspective about how we as human beings fit into the universe.”
Now we officially have visited all 9 planets that are (or have been) considered a planet of our solar system via a robotic spacecraft.
Now of course Pluto is no longer officially recognized as a planet but there still remains a controversy since the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006.
The main purpose of New Horizons was to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper Belt. It was designed to perform flybys of the Pluto system and one or more Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
So in that regards New Horizons jobs is half way finished, the New Horizons now heads for the Kuiper Belt.
But the history of New Horizons wasn’t all daisies.
New Horizons “faced a crazy number of challenges — politically, funding and priority; nuclear fuel shortages; rocket issues,”
“So many people stuck with this for so long. They got knocked down, they stood up. They got knocked down again, they stood up again. They would not take no for an answer.”
And all this struggle and persistence paid off in the end. Glen fountain said that when New Horizons hit its target at about 4.8 billion KM away from the earth, NASA had just struck a hole-in-one on a golf shot from New York City to Los Angeles.