The New Horizons spacecraft is said to be in good shape as it gears up for a historic Pluto flyby Tuesday, July 14. Launched in 2006, NASA’s unmanned New Horizons has so far travelled more than 3 billion miles to reach the Pluto planet. In the early hours of Monday (GMT), New Horizons moved to within a million miles of the dwarf planet and was closing in rapidly, reports the BBC.
Ahead of its historic fly of the icy planet, the American space probe has beamed back best ever photos of the Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. The New Horizons spacecraft captured its last and best image of the four mysterious dark spots on Pluto’s far side. The spots appear on the side of Pluto that always faces Charon.
After more than nine-year and three-billion mile journey, the New Horizons spacecraft will swing past Pluto at 7:49 am EDT on Tuesday, July 14, at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour, becoming the first spacecraft to do a flyby of the icy planet.
The closest flyby is scheduled for July 14 at 7:50 am (11:50 GMT), when New Horizons passes within 9,977 kilometres of Pluto. During the flyby, the spacecraft with a suite of seven science instruments, will gather data from the dwarf planet. It will help scientists study Pluto’s geology, surface composition, temperature and atmosphere as well as its five moons.
Source : IANS