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Hey Pluto, We’re Coming!

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In 2015, a NASA spacecraft will have the first ever close encounter with Pluto, the lonely dwarf.

The New Horizons spacecraft, currently 2.9 billion miles (4.6 billion kilometers) from Earth, had been in hibernation since August this year, with most of its systems turned off to reduce wear.

But late on Saturday, December 6 mission scientists received a confirmation signal from New Horizons at the probe’s Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The probe is now up and ready for its 2015 flyby of Pluto.

At the time, New Horizons was just over 162 million miles (261 million km) from Pluto. About 20 people gathered in a conference room at APL to await the signal from it.

New Horizons will kick off its Pluto campaign in January and will be closest to Pluto in July. It will explore the outermost and most populated region of the solar system, called the Kuiper belt, which is full of objects that have remained unchanged since the formation of the solar system as we know it.

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