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Our Closest Look At Pluto

The NASA New Horizons spacecraft had its closest encounter with Pluto on Tuesday after a nine-a-half-year journey to the dwarf planet.
Our Closest Look At Pluto
Image from: NASA

I couldn't find live coverage anywhere this morning, except on NASA's choppy Ustream. But it was still exciting:

LAUREL, Md. — It was like New Year’s Eve in Times Square as the countdown clock ticked down to zero.

“We’re going to do our 10-9-8 thing and you can get your flags out,” S. Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto told the people gathered at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory here, which is operating the mission. “We’re going to go absolutely ape.”

At about 7:50 a.m. Tuesday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made it closest pass by Pluto, coming within 7,800 miles of the surface.

The crowd, which included the children of Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, cheered.

As soon as it arrived, New Horizons. was leaving, speeding along its trajectory at 31,000 miles per hour.

For now, no one knows how the spacecraft is faring.

New Horizons, which is in the middle of 22 hours of automated scientific observations, will not check in with mission controllers for several more hours, with the signal scheduled to arrive on Earth at 8:53 p.m. By tomorrow, the spacecraft will be mostly finished with the data collecting phase of the mission and begin sending back the trove of information for scientists to delve into.

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