The world has been anxiously awaiting the finale of our first mission to Pluto. Ever. At 7:49 am EDT tomorrow morning, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will complete its nine-year, 4.6-billion-mile journey to the icy dwarf planet.
Although the craft is “just” doing a flyby — swooping about 6,200 miles from the planet at about 31,000 miles per hour — the spacecraft is tricked out with seven scientific instruments that will beam back data that scientists will study for years to come.
New Horizons has “three optical instruments, two plasma instruments, a dust sensor and a radio science receiver/radiometer,” NASA said in a press release. They will probe the planet-wide geology, the composition and temperature of its surface, the pressure and temperature of its atmosphere, and the speed at which Pluto and its moons’ atmospheres are escaping into space.
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