NASA Reaches Pluto After 10 Year Journey
NASA announced today that the United States has made it to the planet Pluto. Here's the incredible story of how we got there.
According to NASA, at 6:49 a.m. Central time, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reached the closest approach to the planet Pluto. It culminates an unprecedented journey spanning 9 1/2 years and 3 billion miles.
Based on everything NASA knows, New Horizons was straight on course for the historic encounter, sweeping within 7,800 miles of Pluto at 31,000 mph. But official confirmation won't come until Tuesday night, 13 nerve-racking hours later. That's because NASA wants New Horizons taking pictures of Pluto, its jumbo moon Charon and its four little moons during this critical time, not gabbing to Earth.
The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2006 to shed light on the mysterious icy world, but was demoted seven months later to dwarf status.
The thought of communications from 3 billion miles away and waiting almost a decade for just one moment is mind boggling all by itself. Congratulations America, we did it.