The anticipation is building among the space and science community around the world as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has its sights set on the Pluto system, nearly 3 billion miles from home, taking aim for a historic first reconnaissance flyby of the tiny world that was demoted to a “dwarf planet” by the astronomy community several years ago. Currently cruising through the outer Solar System at about 32,400 mph (as of June 12), the spacecraft is now nearly 32 times farther from the Sun than Earth is, taking aim for its long-awaited close encounter of this mysterious place that astronomers really do not know much about.
Now just 31 days before the close encounter, NASA has released a new hour-long documentary, titled “Year of Pluto,” which takes on the hard science and provides answers to how the decade-long mission came about and why it matters. Interviews with Dr. James Green, John Spencer, Fran Bagenal, Mark Showalter, and others share how New Horizons will answer many questions, effectively writing the book on Pluto for generations to come and laying the road for future spacecraft to follow, same as has played out with NASA’s Mars exploration missions over the past several decades.
WATCH: NASA’s “Year of Pluto” documentary and the historic New Horizons mission
AmericaSpace has covered New Horizons in-depth for several years and will be providing regular updates as they come on our New Horizons Mission Tracker. Viewers can follow 24/7 for mission updates, new images, and links to all of our New Horizons coverage and interviews—past and present.
Now, almost 10 years after it launched with the fastest escape velocity of any man-made object ever made, New Horizons is knocking on Hades’ door, and, coincidentally, New Horizons’ arrival at Pluto in July will mark the 50th anniversary of the first-ever planetary imaging flyby in the history of space exploration: Mariner 4’s fly by of Mars in July 1965.
Whichever way one looks at it, whether you believe Pluto to be a planet or not, our first visit by a machine fashioned by human hands promises to be an epochal moment in the history of our species—an illustrator of how far we have come, figuratively and literally, in just a handful of decades.
“The mission’s science and engineering teams have done a tremendous job of preparing for the Pluto system flyby, and we’re all very excited about all the new discoveries that await us when we get there,” said the mission’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, in a previous interview with AmericaSpace. “We’re also excited to bring back first time exploration to the public’s attention – nothing like this has happened since Voyager reached Neptune in 1989!”
Stay with AmericaSpace for regular updates and LIVE COVERAGE of New Horizons’ approach and flyby of the Pluto system.