NASA's Pluto Probe Phones Home, Signaling Successful Flyby - NBC New York
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NASA's Pluto Probe Phones Home, Signaling Successful Flyby

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    NASA's Pluto Probe Phones Home, Signaling Successful Flyby
    NASA
    The clearest image of Pluto yet was captured by the NASA probe New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface.

    It's official: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has gotten humanity's first up-close look at Pluto.

    The spacecraft sent word of its triumph Tuesday across 3 billion miles to scientists waiting breathlessly back home.

    Confirmation of mission success came 13 hours after the actual flyby.

    Early indications had been encouraging, and a cheering, flag-waving celebration swept over the mission operations center in Maryland at the time of closest approach Tuesday morning. But until New Horizons phoned home Tuesday night, there was no guarantee the spacecraft had buzzed the little, icy world.

    The unprecedented encounter was the last stop on NASA's grand tour over the past half-century of the planets in our solar system. New Horizons arrived at Pluto after an epic journey that began 9½ years ago, back when Pluto was still considered a full-fledged planet.

    According to NASA, the spacecraft swept to within 7,700 miles of Pluto at 31,000 mph. The pictures from closest approach should be available starting Wednesday.