NASA's New Horizons creates history, captures farthest images by any spacecraft

NASA These images of Kuiper Belt objects taken by NASA's New Horizons were the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft

That picture, the brainchild of the late physicist Carl Sagan, looked back at Earth from a distance of 3.75 billion miles.

The previous record - not set on December 9, 2017 - came from the beloved Voyager 1 back in February 1990 with its "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth from 3.75 billion miles from home.

Among other things, New Horizons took pictures of Pluto's mountains and plains, capturing the dwarf planet's "heart", which according to Nasa, is "about the same distance as from Denver to Chicago".

Two hours later, LORRI looked at two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy objects that New Horizons has been traveling through in the wake of its Pluto encounter.

On January 19, 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard on an Atlas V rocket. "The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra - which exhibits deep and wide pits - before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere".

Those snapshots of the December 2012 KBO 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 are so far the furthest ever captured by a spacecraft, and the closest to any body of Kuiper, the agency stressed in a statement.

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"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched".

New Horizons, in contrast, is just getting started.

It's now hibernating until it readies for launch again on June 4, but the spacecraft hopes to observe at least two-dozen other Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), dwarf planets and "Centaurs", or KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets, upon its return later this year.

"And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history", Stern said. New Horizons is one of only five shuttles which has managed to reach the escape velocity required to exit the solar system.

New Horizons covers more than 1.1 million km of space each day (KBO). "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path".

New Horizon's mission to Pluto may be over, but the NASA satellite has just sent back the 21st century's "Pale Blue Dot". Both are floating in the Kuiper Belt, an area on the edge of our solar system that NASA's spacecraft is now exploring. When that happens, it will break the record again.

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