12 years, 0 months, 0 days, 18 hours, 4 minutes ago
Way back when in 2006, NASA launched its New Horizons mission to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons spacecraft will take 9 years to reach its intended target, during which time it did a close flyby of Jupiter in order to get a nice boost of speed. It is now cruising through the interplanetary void on its way to the ice-dwarfs of the Kuiper Belt. No spacecraft has ever been sent to an ice-dwarf planet.
While Pluto is the better known of the pair, its moon Charon is half its size. This makes Pluto and Charon a binary planet, with their gravitational balance point between the two bodies. No spacecraft has ever explored a binary planet.
This long term mission posts regular updates via email where you can keep track of their progress. Earlier this month, the team successfully performed a dry run of the encounter with Pluto. You can keep track of this missions elapsed time with today’s Final Count timer. In a future post, I’ll include a timer with the time to encounter.
For more details, take a look at the NASA’s New Horizon’s Website.