Published: June 1, 2015

First Trip to Pluto

In mid-July, the New Horizons spacecraft is expected to pass by Pluto, offering humanity its most detailed picture ever of the dwarf planet. CU-Boulder has played a major role in the nine-year expedition to the edge of Earth's solar system: Alumnus Alan Stern (PhDAstro'89) is the mission's top scientist, and the spacecraft carries a scientific instrument designed and built by CU students. After passing Pluto, New Horizons will head into the surrounding Kuiper Belt and, if it survives, into the endlessness of space. For more, see "Voyage to Pluto."

New Horizons

New Horizons journey info graphic
*Actual flightpath differs

Journey duration: Nine years. Pluto is more than 3 billion miles away from Earth.

01/19/06 – Launch: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

04/17/06 – Mars orbit crossing

02/28/07 – Jupiter flyby

12/28/09 – Halfway point (in distance)

10/16/10 – Halfway point (in time)

03/18/11 – Uranus orbit crossing

08/25/14 – Neptune orbit crossing

07/14/15 – Closest approach to Pluto

SDC (Student Dust Counter) Designed and built by CU students, it is the first student-built instrument ever to fly on a NASA planetary mission.

 24 hours

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