TAKE 27 LTD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY TAKE 27 LTD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
NASA's New Horizons mission to the Pluto System, launched on 19th January, 2006 with its closest approach to Pluto on 14th July, 2015, a journey of around 6 billion kilometres. This was the first time a spacecraft from Earth visited the dwarf planet and its largest moon Charon since its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997); a small portion of the astronomer's ashes were placed aboard New Horizons. Pluto and Charon belong to a category of planets known as 'ice dwarfs'. They have solid surfaces, but a significant portion of their mass is icy material. Data gathered by New Horizons' instruments will help with the understanding of the surface properties, geology, interior structure and atmospheres of these bodies. Following its 15 months studying Pluto, New Horizons continued out to the Kuiper Belt to study the icy mini-worlds 1.6 billion kilometres further out than Neptune.
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