New Horizons Spacecraft Is 1 Year Away From Closing In On Pluto

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It’s one long road trip, but man’s first voyage to Pluto is almost over.

Alex DeMetrick reports, by this time next July, the New Horizons Spacecraft will reach Pluto after a nine-year journey.

Back in 2006 when the new Horizons Spacecraft left Earth, Pluto was still a planet.

It’s since been downgraded to something called a kuyper object, but what it looks like is a mystery.

But come July 2015, “we’ll be able to take our first really close look at the American planet out there,” said Dr. Ralph McNutt.

First seen as a fuzzy dot by an American astronomer in the 1930s, theories about Pluto range from a ringed world to a surface of icy geysers or perhaps soaring mountains or vast canyons.

New Horizons, which was developed and is controlled by the Johns Hopkins Physics Lab in Howard County, will bring Pluto into focus.

“In about next May we’ll be starting to see Pluto with a higher resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope. Those images will keep getting better and better until we get to July 14 and the closest approach,” McNutt said.

Getting a good look at Pluto could shed light on some ancient leftovers.

The kuyper belt is mostly frozen debris from the very earliest days of our solar system.

Pluto is one of the bigger pieces of the stuff that built Earth and the other planets.

New Horizons is exploring very old ground.

“And of course all this is being run right out of Howard County, Maryland,” McNutt said.

Once pass Pluto, the science team hopes NASA will extend New Horizon’s mission to probe the outer edge of the solar system.

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