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Dec 20, 2005 - NASA is in the final stage of preparations for the launch of its New Horizons spacecraft, destined to lift off for Pluto in January 2006. If all goes well, New Horizons will blast off January 17, 2006 atop an Atlas V rocket; the launch window extends until February 14, 2006. The spacecraft will make a gravity slingshot past Jupiter in 2007, and arrive at Pluto as early as mid-2015.
Oct 31, 2005 - Time to revise your idea of Pluto. New images gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed that this distant planet could two additional moons. If this is true, Pluto will be the first Kuiper Belt Object found to have multiple moons. The candidate moons have been provisionally named S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, and are approximately 44,000 km (27,000 miles) away from Pluto.
Sep 27, 2005 - NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has arrived at Florida's Cape Canaveral to be prepared for launch. If all goes well, New Horizons will lift off atop an Atlas V rocket on January 11, 2006, and begin the decade-long journey to Pluto. It's equipped with seven scientific instruments, and will study Pluto and its moon Charon during a relatively brief flyby. The mission may even be extended, giving the spacecraft an opportunity to study additional objects in the region.
Jul 20, 2005 - Astronomers from MIT and Williams College have teamed up to capture an event seen only once, 25 years ago. On the night of July 10/11, Pluto's moon Charon briefly passed in front of a distant star - this is called an occultation. By studying how the light from this star dimmed and then brightened again, the astronomers will be able to determine if Charon has an atmosphere. Charon is small, so it doesn't have much gravity to hold an atmosphere, but it's so cold that some gasses could be held in place.
Jun 22, 2005 - The New Horizons mission to Pluto has been called "The First Mission to the Last Planet," and it’s the first mission to venture to a "new" planet since the Voyager missions nearly 30 years ago. While New Horizons includes proven technology and a superior launch vehicle, it could be considered to be a 'throw-back’ mission. Some of the scientific instruments on board are named after characters from the 1950’s television show, "The Honeymooners," and the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, says the mission makes him feel like he’s back in the heyday 1960’s or 1970’s of space exploration because this mission is all about exploring planets for the first time.
Jun 13, 2005 - All the planets in our solar system have been visited by a spacecraft, except one... Pluto. The spacecraft that will complete the collection, New Horizons, arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for pre-flight testing. If all goes well, New Horizons will launch atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket in January 2006, and reach Pluto and its moon Charon in 2015. The spacecraft will remain at Goddard for the next three months, where technicians will put it through a range of tests to make sure it's ready to ride a rocket.
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