Washington: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft marked its 10 years in space Wednesday since it rocketed into the sky above the Florida coastline, beginning its long journey into the history books.
Ten years ago on this day, 19 January, 2006, the small probe - weighing barely 1,000 pounds - lifted off from Cape Canaveral at precisely 2 p.m. EST aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas V launch vehicle specially equipped with a Boeing third stage, making it the most powerful rocket NASA’s science program has used in this century.
New Horizons sped from Earth faster than any spacecraft before it, embarking on a 9.5-year voyage across more than 3 billion miles that culminated last summer in the historic first reconnaissance of Pluto and its family of small moons.
Now far beyond Pluto, New Horizons continues to send back data from that July 14 historic flyby, and the detailed views of these strange new worlds have intrigued scientists and the public alike.
Just days ahead of its 10th anniversary, the NASA probe has sent back the highest resolution images yet of Pluto’s layered blue atmospheric haze and of a large mountain which scientists believed to be a cryovolcano.