Washington, July 15 (IANS) After completing the historic fly-by of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons probe has successfully beamed a pre-programmed “phone call” — a 15-minute series of status messages — to mission scientists on Earth.
US President Barack Obama congratulated the NASA team for this historic feat on Twitter.
“Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks @NASA – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership,” he tweeted.
The mission scientists have now instructed the probe to spend the time gathering the maximum amount of data and not communicating with Earth until it was beyond the Pluto system.
“We have inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
“This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential,” he added.
The “phone call” was beamed back to scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland through NASA’s Deep Space Network.
“With the successful flyby of Pluto, we are celebrating the capstone event in a golden age of planetary exploration,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.
“While this historic event is still unfolding — with the most exciting Pluto science still ahead of us — a new era of solar system exploration is just beginning,” he added.
New Horizons is collecting so much data it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.
Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object visited by a mission from Earth.
New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.
“The New Horizons flyby completes the first era of planetary reconnaissance, a half century long endeavour that will forever be a legacy of our time,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.