The next images New Horizons sends back will be the last first views of a planet we will see for a very long time. This is Pluto in a Minute.
We have been seeing new worlds in the solar system almost as long as we’ve been exploring space. The first ever views of another world that we got came from Mariner 4. On July 14, 1965, it flew by Mars and took the first ever images of the planet’s surface. Another Mariner mission, Mariner 10, was the first to image Venus but we can’t see its surface because of the thick clouds. The spacecraft then went on to its primary target, Mercury, and took the first ever pictures of the planet closest to our Sun in 1974.
Things got really interesting in 1977 when NASA launched the twin Voyager spacecraft on a mission to the outer planets. Voyager 1 reached the Jupiter system first and returned the first ever images of the gas giant in 1979. It reached Saturn, the ringed planet, to return the first images, in 1980. In 1986, Voyager 2 flew past Uranus and took the first ever images of the world on its side, and in 1989 it passed Neptune to return the first ever images of that world.
New Horizons is making its close flyby of Pluto and it is going to return the most stunning images we’ve seen from the mission yet, and they will be a sight better than the first images we saw of Mars 50 years ago today.
For more on Pluto check out the New Horizons websites and tweet your questions using the hashtag #PlutoFlyby. And of course, come back here tomorrow for more Pluto in a minute.