Equipped only for a brief fly-by, the “New Horizons” spacecraft completed its 3-billion-mile mission when it sped past Pluto, snapping pictures and recording data at 7:49 Tuesday morning.
The $700 million project launched in January 2006, and the earliest predicted arrival to Pluto was, just as expected, July 14, 2015.
The mission is the first to Pluto in recorded history, and the craft measuring 83 inches long will continue into outer space on its trajectory path, unable to stop, with no plans to retrieve it.
— NASA (@NASA) July 14, 2015
NASA is aiming to map the planet and its moon’s surface, understand the geology of the planet and determine its escape rate.
The New Horizons spacecraft was launched with equipment that could calculate the exact size of Pluto, detect magnetic fields on Pluto and her moon Charon, and possibly find additional satellites or rings near Pluto and her moons.
NASA reports that the trip past Jupiter put the New Horizons rocket three times closer to the planet than Cassini, a spacecraft from 2000 that traveled to Saturn, even though New Horizons was 1.4 million miles away from Jupiter.
Observations of the icy dwarf planet began five months ago, and 10 weeks ago the photography of Pluto exceeds the best photographs from Hubble. In nine months, the dataset from the craft will completely download to NASA computers and the craft will continue past the solar system.