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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
Here's what New Horizons may look like when it flies past Pluto in 2015. Can you spot Pluto's large moon, Charon, in the background? Can you see the Sun, which is very far away?
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Image courtesy Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons Mission to Pluto

A spacecraft is going to Pluto! The name of the spacecraft is New Horizons. New Horizons will be the first spacecraft ever to go to Pluto!

Pluto is very, very far away. It will take New Horizons nine years to get to Pluto! New Horizons blasted off in January 2006. But it won't get to Pluto until 2015.

The spacecraft will do a "gravity slingshot" move when it passes Jupiter. That will make the spacecraft go really fast. It will go 47,000 miles per hour (about 21 kilometers per second) for a while.

When New Horizons gets to Pluto it will study the frozen world. It will also study Pluto's big moon Charon. It will take pictures. It will send back readings from its instruments. Those will tell us about Pluto's atmosphere and magnetic field.

New Horizons won't stop after it passes Pluto. It will also study at least one Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). KBOs are giant iceballs that are sort of mini-planets. Most KBOs are even farther away than Pluto!

Last modified February 16, 2007 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF