NASA Awakens New Horizons Spacecraft Ahead of Pluto Encounter [Video]
NASA's doing some crazy things this month.
Now, the U.S. space agency has awakened its New Horizons spacecraft for an encounter with Pluto -- which is still a planet to me.
After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles -- the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target, New Horizons was taken out of hibernation Saturday night, NASA announced. It is about 162 million miles from Pluto.
Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., confirmed that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed commands, had switched to active mode.
The spacecraft, drawing electricity from one radioisotope thermoelectric generator, operates on less power than a pair of 100-watt light bulbs.
Distant observations of the Pluto system begin Jan. 15, 2015, and will continue until late July 2015. Its closest approach to Pluto is expected to be July 14, 2015.
New Horizons was launched Jan. 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On Saturday night, it joined the astronauts on four space shuttle missions who awoke to English tenor Russell Watson’s inspirational "Where My Heart Will Take Me."