Tags: nasa | probe | pluto | new horizons | flyby

NASA Probe Pluto, Launched 9 Years Ago, to Finally Perform First Flyby

By    |   Monday, 13 Jul 2015 10:18 AM

NASA’s New Horizons space probe, which was launched towards Pluto more than nine years ago, is set to experience its first flyby of the icy dwarf planet 7,800 miles from its surface at 7:49 a.m. EST on Tuesday morning.

The 1,054-pound mini grand piano-shaped probe is also set to pass 17,000 miles from Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, as it hurtles towards Pluto, according to CNN.

“We're trying to hit a very small box, relatively speaking,” said Mark Holdridge, the encounter mission manager, according to The Associated Press. “It's 60 by 90 miles, and we're going 30,000 mph, and we're trying to hit that box within a plus or minus 100 seconds.”

When the new photos are released on Wednesday and the data samples are transmitted to Earth in October 2016, this event will be known as the biggest planetary unveiling since NASA’s Voyager 2 performed a flyby of Neptune in 1989, according to the AP. This trip also marks the last stop in NASA’s quest to explore each planet in this solar system.

Ever since Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 as the only American to ever discover a planet, the enigmatic and tiny planet has tantalized scientists and Plutophiles alike, according to the AP.

As sneak-peek photos are getting “juicier and juicier,” Johns Hopkins project scientist Hal Weaver said that “the science team is just drooling over these pictures,” according to the AP.

The probe will continue to gather data as it cruises past Pluto and its five moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra — all of which are named in association with Pluto, the mythical Greek god of the underworld, according to the AP.

“The data is going to start raining down from the sky,” said Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, according to CNN. “Pluto and Charon are both mind-blowing. I think that the biggest surprise is the complexity we're seeing in both objects.”

Although the probe gave scientists a scare on July 4 when they lost contact with it during a glitch, causing some data to be lost, everything is currently in order for the flyby tomorrow, according to CNN.

Despite Pluto’s demotion from official planet status in 2006 – just months after the probe’s launch — the dwarf planet continues to enthrall and entice the scientific community.

“The universe has a lot more variety than we thought about, and that's wonderful,” said Stern, according to CNN. “The most exciting discoveries will likely be the ones we don't anticipate.”

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NASA’s New Horizons space probe, which was launched towards Pluto more than nine years ago, is set to experience its first flyby of the icy dwarf planet 7,800 miles from its surface at 7:49 a.m. EST on Tuesday morning.
nasa, probe, pluto, new horizons, flyby
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2015-18-13
Monday, 13 Jul 2015 10:18 AM
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