Launched in 2006 atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the New Horizons probe traveled nearly 3 billion miles and took more than nine years to make a flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto.
The plutonium-powered probe passed Pluto, its main satellite Charon and other moons on Tuesday. During the brief flyby, the probe devoted all of its power to data collection, effectively going dark to the Earth. Eventually New Horizons phoned home with an "all-clear" status update.
The next stage of the mission is to slowly send all of that data back, a task that may take 16 months over a datalink that is able to communicate at just 600 to 1,200 bits per second, a speed comparable to a dial-up modem of the mid-1990s. Images, and other new discoveries, from the flyby may take make many weeks to be released as NASA scientists sift through the data.
Clarification (July 16, 2015): An earlier photo caption in this gallery suggested that, with this week's Pluto flyby, the United States became the first country to have visited all the planets in the solar system. Pluto, however, is considered by scientists to be a dwarf planet. The story has been updated.
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