Tomorrow is the close encounter between the New Horizons spacecraft and the ninth planet. I read that this mission was inspired by the 1991 space exploration stamp series.
Stamps were 29 cents back then. Nice to know this is outdated in more ways than one.
This is a flyby like the Voyager missions, not an orbiting mission. A computer glitch a few days ago has been resolved, and more pictures are being sent back to Earth.
This is the far side of Pluto, from 2.5 million miles away.
What we know so far:
New Horizons was launched in 2006 and is moving at an Earth-relative speed of 36,373 mph. It is 31.9 AU or approximately 3 billion miles away from home, and it takes the signal four and a half hours to reach Earth.
Pluto’s newly estimated size [1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter] means that its density is slightly lower than previously thought, and the fraction of ice in its interior is slightly higher. Also, the lowest layer of Pluto’s atmosphere, called the troposphere, is shallower than previously believed…
Nix and Hydra were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005. Even to Hubble, they appeared as points of light, and that’s how they looked to New Horizons until the final week of its approach to Pluto…Nix is estimated to be about 20 miles (about 35 kilometers) across, while Hydra is roughly 30 miles (roughly 45 kilometers) across. These sizes lead mission scientists to conclude that their surfaces are quite bright, possibly due to the presence of ice.
Other NASA craft are supporting this mission, including Cassini, Kepler, the SOFIA airborne observatory, and the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes.
Because of the sheer amount of data and the number of spacecraft using the Deep Space Network, it will take a year for all of the data from the flyby to reach Earth.
New Horizons will continue on to the Kuiper Belt, heading in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.