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NASA Makes Historic Pluto Flyby

Updated July 14, 2015
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NASA Makes Historic Pluto Flyby

We may never look at Pluto the same way again.  The Human Race made a little history just moments ago.  Never before have we been this close to Pluto.

If all went as planned, the dwarf planet got a fleeting but ardent visit early Tuesday from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.  At 7:49 a.m. ET this morning, the ship whizzed by Pluto's piebald face at a distance of less than 8,000 miles. 

We won't know for sure how things went for at least another 12 hours in part because it takes the ship's radio signals nearly 4 hours to travel the 3 billion miles back to Mission Control.  The other 7 hours is needed to process and analyze all of the information that New Horizons was collecting. 

The picture of Pluto above is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before Tuesday's moment of closest approach.  New pictures of the flyby are expected this evening.

Scientists and other guests at Mission Control began a count down in unison to the moment of flyby, chanting, "Nine! Eight! Seven!"  When zero hit, a huge roar rose from the members of the crowd as they waved small American flags.

The Pluto project is located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which oversees the $720 million mission for NASA.

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