The probe will be the first of its kind to visit the smallest planet.
It hasn't happened yet, but any minute, a small probe will land on Pluto. This probe, which has travelled over 3.6 billion miles, will give us breathtaking views of the smallest planet that we have never seen before.
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CNN reports that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be within 6,200 miles (9,978 kilometers) of Pluto's surface at 7:49 a.m. ET on July 14, becoming the first spacecraft to do a flyby of the icy world. It will also pass right by Pluto's moon Charon, and we will hopefully be able to get some images of that as well. The probe will be zooming by at 31,000 miles per hour (14 kilometers per second) during the main encounter, which will last about eight to 10 hours, NASA predicts.
When this probe successfully makes it to Pluto, the United States will be the only country in the world who has successfully sent a probe to every country.
"We came a long way to explore Pluto, and all the early indications are Pluto is not going to let us down," Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, said at a briefing Monday.
The probe hasn't always behaved, it actually gave all of the scientists a scare Saturday when they lost contact with it after a computer glitch at mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
"We did hit a speed bump," Stern said. Some science data was lost, including some images, he said, but the spacecraft and its instruments now are "operating flawlessly." Currently, they are on course to meet their goals.
NASA hopes that the probe will teach us a lot about the small planet and how it moves and fluctuates. "We're just learning that a lot of planets are small planets, and we didn't know that before," Stern said in a NASA news release. "Fact is, in planetary science, objects such as Pluto and the other dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt are considered planets and called planets in everyday discourse in scientific meetings."
Pluto is very different from many of the other planets in that it isn't gas like the others we have been to, but it actually has an icy surface.
NASA is also hoping to see if there is anything beyond Pluto.
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