NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is whizzing to the outer reaches of my solar system, where it will perform the first close-up flyby of Pluto.
The piano-size probe took off from Earth in January 2006. It is on track to soar close to the dwarf planet and within the orbit of its five known moons on July 14 — after 3 billion miles.
“It’s an incredibly exhilarating and humbling experience to think this is civilization’s first step to see the Kuiper belt. It’s not going to happen, I think, in my lifetime again,” Hal Weaver, a New Horizons project scientist, said in an interview with Yahoo News.
Weaver, who works at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., says that a relatively small team of scientists has been working on the project at any given time. Right now, there are about 10, but that number will approach 50 as the probe reaches Pluto.
The groundbreaking journey could shed light on the Kuiper belt, a region of the solar system that you humans do not know much about.
For Earthlings, the reconnaissance mission is expected to transform this little pixelated blob into a vibrant world full of complexity and diversity, with new information vastly superior to what we now have.
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