Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
For the first time in history, Pluto will be seen up close as NASA's New Horizons mission makes a historic flyby of the dwarf planet. It has taken ten years for the New Horizons spacecraft to reach Pluto, and several years of advocacy beforehand to make the mission a reality. The Planetary Society's support for a mission to Pluto began 25 years ago and today stands as a shining example of the possibilities when the world's citizens are empowered to advocate for space exploration.
Planetary Radio LIVE
Join us as The Planetary Society’s Mat Kaplan talks with New Horizons scientists and Pluto-watchers as we monitor the Applied Physics Lab’s live webcast, broadcast from Maryland. Visit the event page for details including a list of our special guests! Watch the webast here if you can't join us in person.
Three months ago, I posted an article explaining what to expect during the flyby. This is a revised version of the same post, with some errors corrected, the expected sizes of Nix and Hydra updated, and times of press briefings added.
New Horizons has "phoned home" as expected, 4 hours after its closest approach to 2014 MU69. Its brief transmission contained no science data, but gave the scientists welcome news: New Horizons has successfully pulled off the most distant flyby ever.
Unaffected by the shutdown of the U.S. government, New Horizons is still on course for its New Year’s encounter with 2014 MU69 (nicknamed “Ultima Thule”). This post collects the latest images from New Horizons' approach to the tiny Kuiper belt object and will be updated regularly.
New Horizons—what will be NASA’s greatest success of 2015—was cancelled multiple times in its early life, and many times before that in its previous incarnations. A mission to Pluto was not inevitable, despite the overwhelming scientific and public excitement.