We'll Be Visiting Pluto in a Year ... Sort Of

Flyby mission to get closer to dwarf planet than ever before

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 14, 2014 12:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Exactly one year from today, a spacecraft will be "arriving" at Pluto—or so a planetary scientist puts it. More specifically, the New Horizons craft, about the size of a baby grand piano and carrying no one, will be passing closer to the dwarf planet than we've ever been before, NPR reports. The craft will be within 6,000 miles of Pluto; until now, "the closest any spacecraft had ever been to Pluto was ridiculously far—about a billion miles," says NASA scientist Alan Stern.

New Horizons will be snapping the best pictures of Pluto we've ever obtained, NPR notes. It's zooming at a million miles per day, Tech Times reports, but signals from the craft take four and a half hours to arrive back home. The mission's timing is very specific. "Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we're on track," Stern notes. "We're arriving at Pluto on the morning of the 14th of July 2015. It's Bastille day. To celebrate, we're storming the gates of Pluto."

This undated handout photo provided by NASA, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf planet Pluto.
This undated handout photo provided by NASA, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf planet Pluto.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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