Scientists around the world have been waiting decades for this moment, even before the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006.
So the New Horizons team, plus other devoted scientists and fans (even Bill Nye showed up), crammed inside Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory mission control room early this morning to celebrate. The crowd clutched American flags while counting down to the moment the spacecraft swooped within 7,600 miles of Pluto’s surface.
When the clock hit zero a little before 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the room went nuts:
Because the spacecraft is busy collecting tons of scientific data, the New Horizons team won’t know if the flyby was a complete success until about 9 p.m. EDT tonight. The chance of failure is extremely low — about 1 in 10,000 — so the celebrations will almost certainly continue.
“It’s like the Woodstock of planetary exploration here right now,” David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist on the scene at JHUAPL, said during a live webcast by the American Museum of Natural History. “It’s a crazy zoo, in a good way.”
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