It’s been nine years and over three billion miles in the making. And from the looks on scientists’ faces as New Horizons flew past Pluto, you could tell.
Scientists reacted with joy yesterday as the time of the flyby went past — and then again when messages came back from the piano-sized craft to say that it had done the most high-risk part of its mission and was healthy.
Many of Nasa’s brightest and most important scientists gathered together, along with the family members of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto in 1930. And together they counted down to wait for the time when the New Horizons craft was scheduled to fly past the planet.
Waving American flags and counting down together, celebrities and scientists waited until the closest approach and shouted together once the time had passed.
But that was only the scheduled closest approach — Nasa didn’t actually know whether or not the craft had completed its flyby successfully until many hours later. Then, once again, scientists had to wait for the “PHONE_HOME downlink”, which came very early on Wednesday morning.
That part of the mission was a little less spectacular, with scientists sitting around their desks and watching the messages come in on computer screens. But it was no less emotional, as the scientists applauded and appeared to well up at the news that the nine-year mission had made it successfully.Reuse content