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NASA spacecraft dashes by world beyond Pluto

Updated: 2019-01-02 00:30

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, New Horizons project manager Helene Winters of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Fred Pelletier, lead of the project navigation team at KinetX Inc. in Simi Valley, California, and New Horizons co-investigator John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, (L-R) are seen during a press conference prior to the flyby of Ultima Thule by the New Horizons spacecraft at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, US, Dec 31, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has survived humanity's most distant exploration of another world.

Ten hours after the middle-of-the-night encounter 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, received word from the spacecraft late Tuesday morning. Cheers erupted at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control.

An anxious spill-over crowd in a nearby auditorium joined in the loud celebration.

New Horizons zoomed past the small celestial object known as Ultima Thule 3 ½ years after its spectacular brush with Pluto. Scientists say it will take nearly two years for New Horizons to beam back all its observations of Ultima Thule, a full billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto. At that distance, it takes six hours for the radio signals to reach Earth.


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