After 3bn miles and nine long years of travelling, NASA’s New Horizons craft finally made its closest approach to Pluto, from where it will soon send back photos, and Twitter is pretty happy about it.
It certainly wasn’t an easy journey for the spacecraft, which not only holds the record of the fastest craft ever launched by humans into space at 49,600km/h, but also for a brief time appeared doomed until it made a much-celebrated recovery.
So when the crowd of international press, astronomers and space nuts descended on NASA’s official countdown party, it was fair to say it was a pretty jubilant atmosphere for all of those there and the thousands of people around the world who watched the events unfold on Ustream.
Likewise, Twitter proved to be the source of much of the jubilation, as we were teased as to what we can expect when the images begin to come through early tomorrow morning Irish time.
— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) July 14, 2015
— ☾ (@alalunar) July 14, 2015
Having one of those moments where you realize just how vast everything is, how small you are, and how far humanity has come. #PlutoFlyby
— Stephanie Evans (@StephEvz43) July 14, 2015
Some people are just impressed by the sheer scientific achievement of flying a craft that distance successfully.
— Chris Friend (@chris_friend) July 14, 2015
Mission operations manager (MOM) Alice Bowman was able to quip about the fact it might take us a while to transfer all of the scientific data that New Horizons will send back to us…
Grunsfeld to Bowman: “What is the actual data rate? I think it’s lower than 56k.” Bowman: “Yeah, we wish it was 56k” #PlutoFlyby
— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) July 14, 2015
It wasn’t all cheer it has to be said though as some, particularly in the international community, felt that it all became a little too American-centric, what with American flags flying and NASA celebrating it as an American achievement with a craft entirely comprised of American instruments.
“This is about America.” That’s odd, I thought it was about Pluto. :-/ #PlutoFlyby
— Karen James (@kejames) July 14, 2015
Either way, we will all be eager to see what appears tomorrow from NASA and what the close-up images of Pluto reveal. Who knows what mysteries could be lying beneath the surface…
— Dr Adam Rutherford (@AdamRutherford) July 14, 2015