In 2006, Pluto was still considered a planet. In the same year, the New Horizons probe was launched to explore Pluto. 9 Years later, and the spacecraft is now taking pictures of Pluto and its swarm of moons.
Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder Colorado, lead scientist of the mission said that “This is raw exploration, and I’m looking forward to being surprised. We’ve not only never been to the Pluto system, we’ve never been to this new third class of planets out in the Kuiper Belt (a ring of frozen debris and comets orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune)”.
The craft is scheduled to shed light on the unknown, flying about 125,000 km above the dwarf planet’s previously unexplored area. Hopefully, we’ll have better pictures than what the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories have given us.
The mission is not only looking towards Pluto, but is also interested in the Kuiper belt, specifically how the Kuiper belt relates to the early evolution of our solar system. Dr. Stern says that New Horizons is outfitted with very powerful cameras and spectrometers along with a host of other tools and instruments, all for knowing more about Pluto.
Stern added that aside from the surface, New Horizons will also look into Pluto’s atmosphere, geology, environment, its several moons and more.