National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Tuesday set a new record by becoming the first space agency in the world to successfully send a probe mission to the dwarf planet Pluto. The piano sized New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto 72 seconds earlier than the stipulated time.
The flyby took place exactly 50 years after Nasa’s Mariner 4 did a flyby of Mars on 14 July 1965. New Horizons was only 12,472 kilometres from the surface of Pluto. The expedition will study 30 different aspects of the dwarf planet which include surface and composition mapping, atmospheric studies and search for new moons and rings. The vehicle launched on 19 January 2006 traversed a distance of 4.88 billion kilometres before reaching a region known as ‘Kuiper Belt’ beyond Neptune.
Nasa scientists believe the spacecraft is capable of operating till 2030 and that it will travel into regions beyond our solar system. Moreover, they added that the spacecraft will continue to transmit data till October-November 2016.