"We're on Pluto's doorstep" - New Horizons nears Historic Encounter!

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is getting near to the most mysterious place in our solar system. As New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern says " We're on Pluto's Doorstep". Only 1 month and 24 million miles has left for New Horizons Spacecraft to make the historic encounter with the dwarf planet.

   Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (Source)

New Horizons was launched into space on January 19, 2006, exactly 9 years and 4 months ago. The Goal of the mission is to understand the formation of pluto system, the Kuiper Belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System. The spacecraft will study the atmospheres, surfaces, interiors and environments of Pluto and its moons. It will also study other objects in the Kuiper Belt.

The first flyby of pluto will take place on July 14, 2015 at a velocity of about 13.8 km/s relative to the dwarf planet (49,680 km/h; 30,800 mph).

Mission Timeline (Wikipedia

Timeline of the New Horizons mission
Pre-Launch PhaseJanuary 8, 2001Proposal team meets face-to-face for the first time at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory[5]
February 5, 2001New Horizons name chosen.[5][118]
April 6, 2001New Horizons proposal submitted to NASA.It was one of five proposals submitted, which were later narrowed to two for Phase A study: POSSE (Pluto and Outer Solar System Explorer) and New Horizons.[5]
November 29, 2001New Horizons proposal selected by NASA.Started Phase B study.[7]
March 2002Budget zeroed by Bush administration, later overridden[119]
June 13, 2005Spacecraft departed Applied Physics Laboratory for final testing.Spacecraft undergoes final testing at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).[121]
September 24, 2005Spacecraft shipped to Cape CanaveralIt was moved through Andrews Air Force Base aboard a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft.[32]
December 17, 2005Spacecraft ready for in rocket positioningTransported from Hazardous Servicing Facility to Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.[citation needed]
January 11, 2006Primary launch window openedThe launch was delayed for further testing.[citation needed]
January 16, 2006Rocket moved onto launch padAtlas V launcher, serial number AV-010, rolled out onto pad.[citation needed]
January 17, 2006Launch delayedFirst day launch attempts scrubbed because of unacceptable weather conditions (high winds).[33][34]
January 18, 2006Launch delayed againSecond launch attempt scrubbed because of morning power outage at the Applied Physics Laboratory.[122]
Launch PhaseJanuary 19, 2006Successful launch at 14:00 EST (19:00 UTC)The spacecraft was successfully launched after brief delay due to cloud cover.[35][36]
Fly-by PhaseApril 7, 2006Passes MarsThe probe passed Mars: 1.7 AU from Earth.[46][123]
June 13, 2006Flyby of asteroid 132524 APLThe probe passed closest to the asteroid 132524 APL in the Belt at about 101,867 km at 04:05 UTC. Pictures were taken.[124]
November 28, 2006First image of PlutoThe image of Pluto was taken from a great distance.[52]
January 10, 2007Navigation exercise near JupiterLong-distance observations of Jupiter's outer moon Callirrhoeas a navigation exercise.[125]
February 28, 2007Jupiter flybyClosest approach occurred at 05:43:40 UTC at 2.305 million km, 21.219 km/s.[126]
June 8, 2008Passing of Saturn's orbitThe probe passed Saturn's orbit: 9.5 AU from Earth.[126][127]
December 29, 2009The probe became closer to Pluto than to EarthPluto was then 32.7 AU from Earth, and the probe was 16.4 AU from Earth[128][129][130]
February 25, 2010Half mission distance reachedHalf the travel distance of 2.38×109 kilometers (1,480,000,000 mi) was completed.[131]
March 18, 2011The probe passed Uranus's orbitThis is the fourth planetary orbit the spacecraft crossed since its start. New Horizons reached Uranus's orbit at 22:00 GMT.[132][133]
December 2, 2011New Horizons drew closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft has ever been.Previously, Voyager 1 held the record for the closest approach. (~10.58 AU)[134]
February 11, 2012New Horizons was 10 AU from Pluto.Distance from Pluto at around 4:55 UTC.[135]
July 1, 2013New Horizons captures its first image ofCharonCharon is clearly separated from Pluto using the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).[136][137]
October 25, 2013New Horizons was 5 AU from Pluto.Distance from Pluto[135][138]
July 20, 2014Photos of Pluto and CharonImages obtained showing both bodies orbiting each other, distance 2.8 AU.[139]
August 25, 2014The probe passed Neptune's orbitThis was the fifth planetary orbit crossed.[140]
December 7, 2014New Horizons awoke from hibernation.NASA's Deep Sky Network station at Tidbinbilla, Australia received a signal confirming that it successfully awoke from hibernation.[73][74]
Jan 2015Observation of Kuiper belt object 2011 KW48Distant observations from a distance of roughly 75 million km (~0.5 AU)[141]
January 15, 2015New Horizons is now close enough to Pluto and begins observing the systemDistance from Pluto[4][142]
March 10–11, 2015New Horizons was 1 AU from Pluto.Distance from Pluto[143]
March 20, 2015NASA invitationNASA invited general public to suggest names to surface features that will be discovered on Pluto and Charon[144]
May 15, 2015Better than HubbleImages exceed best Hubble Space Telescope resolution.[90]
Science PhaseJuly 14, 2015Flyby of PlutoCharonHydraNixKerberosand Styx • Flyby of Pluto around 11:47 UTC at 13,695 km, 13.78 km/s.
 • Pluto is 32.9 AU from Sun.
 • Flyby of Charon around 12:01 UTC at 29,473 km, 13.87 km/s.
2016–20Possible flyby of one or more Kuiper beltobjects (KBOs)The probe will perform flybys of other KBOs, if any are in the spacecraft's trajectory. Heliosphere data collection expected to begin.[145]
January 2019Possible flyby of 2014 MU692014 MU69 is currently the most probable known target in the Kuiper belt. Heliosphere data collection expected to continue.
2026Expected probable end of the mission based on RTG plutonium decay.Heliosphere data collection expected to be intermittent if instrument power sharing is required.[146]
Post-Mission Phase2038New Horizons will be 100 AU from the Sun.If still functioning, the probe will explore the outer heliosphere.[114]

Timeline source : Wikipedia

Read More about New Horizons :
On The Web : Here's Why The New Horizons Spacecraft Won't Be Stopping At Pluto (io9)