New Horizons

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New Horizons is a spacecraft probe launched by NASA on 19 January 2006, currently flying to the dwarf planet Pluto and on an escape trajectory from the Sun. It is the first man-made spacecraft to go to Pluto. Its flight will take eight years. It is estimated to arrive at the Pluto-Charon system on July 14, 2015. It will fly near Pluto and take photographs and measurements while it passes and transmit them back to Earth.

The primary mission of New Horizons is to study Pluto and its system of moons. The secondary mission is to study any objects in the Kuiper Belt, if something became available for a flyby.

The space probe set the record for the fastest man-made object ever launched, with the Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 km/s, although, arguably, the Helios probes got a faster Sun-relative speed. It used gravity assists from Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus to get its high speeds without having to burn as much monopropellant (weak rocket fuel) as needed to fly directly to Pluto.

The flight started on 19 January 2006, with the use of a Atlas V rocket to get it into onto an Earth escape trajectory. New Horizons is owned by NASA.[1]

  1. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/