NASA - New Horizons Mission patch.
July 15, 2015
Image above: New Horizons Flight Controllers celebrate after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 in the Mission Operations Center (MOC) of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
The call everyone was waiting for is in. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto.
“I know today we’ve inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success, and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential.”
Artist's view of New Horizons passing over Pluto. Image Credit: NASA
The preprogrammed “phone call” -- a 15-minute series of status messages beamed back to mission operations at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland through NASA’s Deep Space Network -- ended a very suspenseful 21-hour waiting period. New Horizons had been instructed to spend the day gathering the maximum amount of data, and not communicating with Earth until it was beyond the Pluto system.
“With the successful flyby of Pluto we are celebrating the capstone event in a golden age of planetary exploration,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “While this historic event is still unfolding --with the most exciting Pluto science still ahead of us -- a new era of solar system exploration is just beginning. NASA missions will unravel the mysteries of Mars, Jupiter, Europa and worlds around other suns in the coming years."
Views of Pluto From New Horizons' Approach
Video above: A series of images shows New Horizons' view of Pluto during the final week of its almost 10-year, three-billion-mile journey.
Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object visited by a mission from Earth. New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.
“Following in the footsteps of planetary exploration missions such as Mariner, Pioneer and Voyager, New Horizons has triumphed at Pluto,” says New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “The New Horizons flyby completes the first era of planetary reconnaissance, a half century long endeavor that will forever be a legacy of our time."
Image above: Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless—possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes. Image Credits: NASA/APL/SwRI.
New Horizons is collecting so much data it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.
“On behalf of everyone at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, I want to congratulate the New Horizons team for the dedication, skill, creativity, and determination they demonstrated to reach this historic milestone,” said APL Director Ralph Semmel. “We are proud to be a part of a truly amazing team of scientists, engineers, and mission operations experts from across our nation who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this mission.”
Image above: Pluto nearly fills the frame in this black and white image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. Image Credits: NASA/APL/SwRI.
Charon’s Newly-Discovered System of Chasms
Images above: Charon’s newly-discovered system of chasms, larger than the Grand Canyon on Earth, rotates out of view in New Horizons’ sharpest image yet of the Texas-sized moon. It’s trailed by a large equatorial impact crater that is ringed by bright rays of ejected material. In this latest image, the dark north polar region is displaying new and intriguing patterns. This image was taken on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.
APL designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. SwRI leads the mission, science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Follow the New Horizons mission on Twitter and use the hashtag #PlutoFlyby to join the conversation. Live updates also will be available on the mission Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/new.horizons1
For more information on the New Horizons mission, including fact sheets, schedules, video and images, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons and http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/plutotoolkit.cfm
Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Mike Buckley/Southwest Research Institute/Maria Stothoff/Sarah Ramsey.