NASA scientists on Tuesday morning counted down the last few seconds remaining in their mission to Pluto — a mission that took 3,463 days, or about 9 1/2 years, to finally come to fruition.
When the clock hit zero, the space agency couldn't have been prouder.
"People didn't think it could be done … but it's worked essentially flawlessly for the last nine years," Alan Stern, principal investigator of New Horizons, said about the spacecraft and its mission on Tuesday at a NASA briefing.
For decades, the Plutonian system was the only one of the original nine planetary systems in the solar system unexplored by the space agency.
Now, NASA has become the first organization to reach the dwarf planet and its moons, and it can finally tick off that empty check box marked "Pluto."
The atmosphere in the mission operations center at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory was electric as the final seconds ticked down to zero.
When the time ran out, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was at its closest approach to Pluto, within 7,600 miles of the surface.
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