NASA just made history as the first signals have been sent back from Pluto – the furthest planet in our solar system.
The New Horizons spacecraft sent back the message from the dwarf planet which showed it survived the historic journey.
Scientists and engineers gathered at mission headquarters in Laurel, Maryland rejoiced when the signal was received last night – cheering, hugging and waving U.S flags.
The spacecraft hurtled past the icy planet at 14km/s (31,000mph) and the data sent back to a giant NASA dish in Madrid, Spain suggests that it experienced no issues in its trip.
The message took 4 hours, 25 minutes to travel back across 4.7 billion km of space.
Alice Bowman, mission operations manager said:
I can’t express how I feel. It’s just like we planned it!
The mission means that NASA has now visited every single planet in the solar system.
There was a very small possibility that New Horizons could be lost as it sped through the Pluto system, as any stray icy debris would have been lethal if it had collided with the spacecraft at its 14km/s velocity.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
James Christy, who discovered Pluto’s moon Charon, joined relatives of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the dwarf planet itself in 1930, at mission control to witness receipt of the signal.
What an incredible moment, although we’ve never completely forgiven scientists for declassifying Pluto as a planet. If school turned me anything, it’s that there are nine planets, not eight, damn it!
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