New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back First Amazing Pictures of Pluto

Wednesday, 15 July 2015 - 10:43AM
Space
Solar System
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 - 10:43AM
New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back First Amazing Pictures of Pluto
The country celebrated yesterday when New Horizons finally reached Pluto after traveling nine years and three billion miles. Yesterday morning, the probe came within 7,750 miles of Pluto's surface, and then phoned home last night to send us the most detailed photographs ever taken of our former ninth planet. 

Here are the most recent photographs of Pluto and its moon system, starting at the end of June and getting closer and closer until the final picture from Monday, 24 hours before the historic flyby, which was amazing enough that it commanded the attention of the President of the United States:

June 23-29:

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto

Tuesday, July 7:

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto

Wednesday, July 8:

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto

Sunday, July 12:

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto

Monday, July 13:

New Horizons Phones Home, Sends Back Amazing Pictures of Pluto



Coincidentally enough, the flyby occurred on the 50th anniversary of Mariner 4's first ever flyby of Mars, which also yielded the first detailed photographs of a planet in our solar system. 

"I think it's fitting that on that 50th anniversary, we complete the initial reconnaissance of the planets with the exploration of Pluto," said Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, told CNN.

At first, New Horizons was in data gathering mode, and was not in contact with Earth. The team waited with bated breath for the first contact, as there was a chance, however slight, that something could go wrong. Everything seemed to go according to plan during the flyby, but there was no way to know for sure that the craft was faring well.

"We always talk about the spacecraft as being a child, maybe a teenager," missions operator Alice Bowman said during a news conference after the flyby. "There was absolutely nothing anybody on the operations team could do, just to trust that we had prepared it well to set off on its journey on its own."

But it successfully phoned home last night at approximately 8:52 pm and sent back those initial photos, and is expected to send back photos from the closest approach sometime today, ten times the resolution of the photos released yesterday. The probe should be mostly done with the data-gathering phase by now, and beginning to send back all of the scientific data from the last 16 months as we speak.

Science
NASA
Space
Solar System

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