The first spacecraft ever aimed at the planet Pluto is hours away from launching into space on a nine-year mission to the distant, icy world.
A Lockheed Martin-built Atlas 5 rocket is poised to launch NASA’s Pluto-bound probe New Horizons at 1:24 p.m. EST (1824 GMT) today from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. If successful, today’s space shot will begin a more than nine-year trek to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt for the piano-sized spacecraft.
I've hardly dared believe this could actually happen, thinking back to the cancellation of the Pluto Express and the Bush administration's repeated attempts to kill the program over the years. Not to mention the disappointment I felt as a kid when I learned that neither of the Voyagers would be flying by Pluto (there were good reasons for this, but even so, that decision bothered me for years). But now--provided all the switches were installed correctly and all the systems were properly tested during pre-flight tests--we may finally, possibly, eventually be on our way to Pluto.
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