The diameter of Pluto is only two-thirds of the diameter of the Moon. And the dwarf planet is very far away, at a distance of five billion kilometers. Nevertheless, a space probe has already met them. About six years ago to date, “New Horizons” passed Pluto. The images of a large, heart-shaped surface structure will not be forgotten.
“New Horizons” failed to enter Pluto’s orbit. The braking maneuver would have consumed much more fuel than the probe. So it flew over Pluto at high speed and later passed the icy object Arrokoth. The probe is now about 7.5 billion kilometers from the Sun – and thus beyond the outermost regions of the highly elliptical Pluto orbit.
The 30-kilometer Arrokoth object was the second destination of New Horizons (NASA)
So now “New Horizons” has left Pluto behind for good — and the probe is slowly leaving the planetary system as one of five missions. The others, the two “Pioneer” and two “Voyager” probes, are much further out: between 16 and 23 billion kilometers separating them from the Sun and Earth.
It is likely that the nuclear battery on board “New Horizons” will provide enough power for radio contact with Earth by the end of 2030. The probe then falls silent, but is on its way to New Horizons in the vastness of the Milky Way.
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