Sunday, December 7, 2014

NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft will Encounter Dwarf Planet Pluto in 2015

This artist's rendering shows NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby of Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015. 

The spacecraft awoke from its final hibernation period on Dec. 6, 2014 in preparation for the epic Pluto encounter at the edge of the solar system.

Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory /Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

Pluto, get ready for your close-up: A NASA spacecraft has roused itself from the final slumber of its nine-year trek to the edge of the solar system, setting the stage for the first close encounter with Pluto next year.

The New Horizons spacecraft, currently located 2.9 billion miles (4.6 billion kilometers) from Earth, had been in hibernation since August, with most of its systems turned off to reduce wear, but late Saturday (Dec. 6), mission scientists received a confirmation signal from New Horizons at the probe's Mission Operations Center here at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The probe is now wide awake for its 2015 flyby of Pluto.

At the time of its wakeup call, New Horizons spacecraft was just over 162 million miles (261 million km) from Pluto.

About 20 people gathered in a conference room here at APL to await the signal from New Horizons.

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