This could be BIG!
As you sit there now, for the first time in history, a spacecraft will be able to see the surface of Pluto up close, revealing a new world to humans who have been waiting patiently for more than nine years back on Earth.
NASA’s New Horizons craft will close the gap from its current location millions of miles from Pluto to about 7,800 miles above the dwarf planet’s surface for its closest pass of the small planet.
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, but since then, it has largely remained . The Hubble Space Telescope photographed Pluto and its five moons — Charon, Hydra, Kerberos, Styx and Nix — throughout the years.
Hubble gave us hints of Pluto’s surface features and data about its thin atmosphere, but the icy world is so far away that even the powerful space telescope couldn’t get a high-resolution look at it. We were still looking at a blurry space object.
It could also be seen as a beginning, rather than an end to a mission. Once Pluto is explored, all of the major, well-known bodies in the solar system will have been seen at close range.
But there are so many new worlds we have yet to explore, and New Horizons might just open the door to many of them.
Pluto exists in a part of space known as the Kuiper Belt — a group of icy objects outside of Neptune’s orbit. By learning more about Pluto itself, scientists could unlock the secrets of a whole class of unexplored objects in our own cosmic backyard, so to speak.
Icy Kuiper Belt objects are thought to be some of the oldest bodies in the solar system, so by learning more about them, we could also find out something about the evolution of every planet, including Earth, in this part of the Milky Way.
This video is from the New Horizon’s Principal Investigator talking about the Pluto Mission.
SOURCE: Mashable, NASA, Video From Space, YouTube