Now just five days away from its close encounter with dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beams back the first image to be received since the 4 July anomaly that sent the spacecraft into safe mode, indicating that all systems appear to be functioning normally. The flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft doesn’t pass Pluto until July 14th — zipping by about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometres) above the surface of the dwarf planet after a journey of almost 3 billion miles — but the mission team is making tantalising new discoveries as the piano-sized probe bears down on the Pluto system.
What a difference 20 million miles makes! Images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are growing in scale as the spacecraft approaches its mysterious target. The new images, taken May 8th-12th using a powerful telescopic camera and downlinked last week, reveal more detail about Pluto’s complex and high contrast surface.