After nearly a decade travelling through space and some significant findings already delivered as it neared the dwarf planet,NASA confirmed this morning that its New Horizons spacecraft has sped past Pluto at a distance of just 7,750 miles above the surface.
“The exploration of Pluto and its moons by New Horizons represents the capstone event to 50 years of planetary exploration by NASA and the United States,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. “Once again we have achieved a historic first. The United States is the first nation to reach Pluto, and with this mission has completed the initial survey of our solar system, a remarkable accomplishment that no other nation can match.”
While there will be plenty more images to come, NASA has already released what its by far the most detailed image of Pluto to date, captured as New Horizons approached the dwarf planet.
As NASA explains in its statement, “per the plan, the spacecraft currently is in data-gathering mode and not in contact with flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physical Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland,” adding that, “scientists are waiting to find out whether New Horizons “phones home,” transmitting to Earth a series of status updates that indicate the spacecraft survived the flyby and is in good health.”