A Day in Astronomy: The Start of the Pluto Mission

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

On this day in 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The objective of the mission was to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. In 2015, the spacecraft spent six months studying Pluto and its moons. New Horizons is now on an extended mission exploring other parts of the Kuiper Belt.

Here is last year’s mission summary from NASA:

New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015 and the Kuiper belt object (KBO) Arrokoth in 2019. In its second extended mission, New Horizons will continue to explore the distant solar system out to 63 astronomical units (AU) from Earth. The New Horizons spacecraft can potentially conduct multi-disciplinary observations of relevance to the solar system and NASA’s Heliophysics and Astrophysics Divisions. Additional details regarding New Horizons’ science plan will be provided at a later date.

Image (Credit): Pluto as seen by the New Horizons spacecraft (with enhanced color). (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)