Pluto probe closes in – NASA’s New Horizons probe passed a key milestone today

NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto

An artist’s conception shows New Horizons at Pluto. Credit: NASA / JHU APL

NASA’s New Horizons probe passed a key milestone today on its nine-year journey and is now closer to Pluto, its primary target, than it is to Earth. But it still has more than five years and more than 1.5 billion miles to go.

The 1,054-pound (480-kilogram) piano-sized spacecraft blasted off for the solar system’s most controversial dwarf planet almost four years ago. New Horizons was the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth, and thanks to a gravitational boost from Jupiter, it’s closing in on Pluto at the rate of 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) per day. The probe is due to zoom past Pluto and its three moons on July 14, 2015.

As of today, New Horizons is between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus – a little more than 1.527 billion miles (2.463 billion kilometers) from Earth and 1.526 billion miles (nearly 2.462 billion kilometers) from Pluto, according to today’s status report from mission control at John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. (APL is managing the mission on NASA’s behalf.)

Read the rest at MSNBC Cosmic Blog