After nine and half years and 4.8 billion kilometres, NASA’s New Horizons unmanned space shuttle has reached its destination. Pluto, the most underrated planet in the solar system, was the star of the show (pun intended).
At 7:40 am EDT on Tuesday, New Horizons passed by Pluto within 12500 kilometres. Though it may seem far away, this is the closest opportunity scientists have had to make contact with the planet. Surprisingly, the shuttle actually passed by approximately 64 kilometres closer than anticipated, and almost a minute and a half earlier.
NASA shared an image of the planet as the shuttle passed by, but has yet to make an official confirmation. The shuttle’s work is not yet done. Tonight, New Horizons will be snapping images of Pluto, its jumbo moon, Charon, and the four little moons circling Pluto.
Aspiring astrologists can see the images live tonight at 8:30 ET on CBC. NASA is anticipating to communicate with the spacecraft after 9:00 pm ET. There will be a media briefing to follow at 9:30 pm ET.
New Horizons left Earth from Florida and began its journey to Pluto in 2006. Although Pluto was statistically demoted from a planet to dwarf planet in 2006, its is believed that there are still significant findings to be developed about the origins of our solar system through Pluto.
With Pluto’s flyby (almost) complete, the United States is currently the only nation to have visited all of the planets in our solar system.
As pictures begin to transmit back to Earth, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the pictures are “mind-boggling to put it mildly”. This mission will go down in the books as one of the most remarkable and important discoveries in scientific history.