NASA's New Horizons to make a Fleeting Flyby across Pluto in just 4 weeks
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is all set to make its closest encounter with the dwarf planet, Pluto, on July 14. It is only left to cover 20 million miles, out of the total distance of some three billion miles.
New Horizons, a probe that started its journey in 2006 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is part of NASA's $700 million mission to collect information about Pluto, the tiny, icy dwarf once considered a full-fledged planet. The probe was launched with the aim of covering the journey of nine years and 3 billion miles to reach Pluto.
The lightweight craft has been designed and operated by the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. There are seven scientific instruments aboard the spacecraft, along with cameras that have been relaying images since January.
Pluto, which was discovered in 1930 by the late American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, has been a mystery for astronomers. It was only recently, in 2012, that the fifth of its moons was exposed. The anticipated flyby on July 14 would come only after the 1989 Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune. The close approach of the dwarf planet would bring more clarity on the size and shape of the dark spots, which were observed in the pictures taken in the end of May.
The craft would fly within 7,750 miles, inside the orbits of Pluto's five known moons. Over the weekend, in order to fine-tune its path, flight controllers fired a thruster. The 20 million miles distance that it is left to cover, is way less than the distance between Earth and Venus, at their closest point. ?
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