Cheers erupted at “Plutopalooza” parties all over the United States as the New Horizons spacecraft soared past the dwarf planet at 7:49 am EDT on Tuesday, July 14th. The historic encounter that brought the spacecraft within 7,800 miles of Pluto successfully ended the three billion mile journey that began almost a decade ago.
Among the revelers was New Horizons chief investigator Alan Stern. He and his team of researchers at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have been working for nine and a half years to make the historic flyby a reality. The victory was particularly gratifying given that just ten days prior to the flyby, the scientists briefly lost all contact with New Horizons. Fortunately, the autonomous pilot aboard the spacecraft was able to detect the problem and restore the connection.
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