After nine years and a journey of 3 billion miles (4.8 billion km), NASA’s New Horizons robotic probe awoke from hibernation to begin its mission to study the planet Pluto and other worlds in the Kuiper Belt.
A pre-set alarm clock awoke New Horizons at 3 p.m. EST, and 6 1/2 hours later, NASA’s ground control team got the confirmation. This craft is waaaay out there. Each astronomical unit is equal to about 93 million miles (149.6 million kilometers) and it is traveling at a speed of about 0.62 miles per second, or 2,237 miles per hour.
Yes, that is faster (way faster) than a speeding bullet.
As fast as the craft is going, there will only be a flyby of Pluto, the planet, before it heads deeper into the Kuiper Belt on its way out of the solar system.
Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been a mystery. Scientists have difficulty explaining why a planet with a radius of just 740 miles (1,190 km) – about half the width of the United States, with 5 known moons, could come to exist beyond the giant worlds of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
This is one expedition I have looked forward to for years. I can’t wait to find out what we discover out there.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.