Today is the day New Horizons will make its closest swing by Pluto, and the world is waiting for the photos and information. It’s going to be an amazing day!
If you’ve been following NASA’s delve into the deepest parts of our Universe, it’s been a long time coming. Launched in 2006, New Horizons is the first spacecraft to reach Pluto and the Kuiper Belt…the farthest reaches of our Solar System. While it won’t land on Pluto, it is tasked with taking photos and uploading as much information to be transferred back to NASA as possible. We are finally going to see what this planet—and then non-planet—is all about.
Last week, only 10 days before the final pass, New Horizons had a bit of a technical issue which resulted in no information being sent to NASA for almost a 90 minute period. They were forced to shut down the main computer system in order to figure out the problem, but for a while, it was unclear if they’d be able to get it functioning in time to take photos or send back any information at all by the time today rolled around. Thankfully, the amazing brains at NASA managed to figure out the glitch and get New Horizons back on track.
You can read all about the mission, future missions, and what they hope to discover about Pluto at NASA’s New Horizons page right here.
For weeks, NASA has been answering fantastic questions posted by people on their Facebook page, on Twitter and through email. Questions like, “Why is it just passing by and not landing?” (Watch this quick video to find out! Hint: it has something to do with fuel.), and “How big or how small is Pluto?” (answer: it’s only about half the width of the United States).
We have lots of books about space in the library, as well as NASA, and specifically, Pluto. And if you’d like to have your own New Horizons Plutopalooza party to celebrate (maybe a fun event for the kids?), check out the information NASA has compiled on their website, complete with printable stickers, posters and more.