Amidst debate concerning the number of planets around our sun (traditionally Pluto holding the ninth and final spot) the New Horizon’s mission launched earlier today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The New Horizon’s mission was the fastest, and arguably most powerful, object to ever leave Earth’s orbit. According to NASA sources, after the two stages of the Atlas rockets main engines burned approximately 45 minutes, the New Horizons probe detached from the rocket at 10 miles per second. At this speed the 3 billion mile journey to Pluto will only take about 9 ½ years. This time frame is fortunate considering that if the New Horizon’s mission had not been launched within the planned launch window, the probe would not have been able to receive a gravity assist upon passing Jupiter. The inability to launch New Horizon during the targeted launch window would have increased the mission time 5 years as the probe would not have been able to receive Jupiter’s gravity boost, delaying the mission’s arrival to Pluto until 2020. The New Horizon mission promises to answer many questions about Pluto and its moon Charon. In a decade, when the New Horizon probe reaches Pluto, astronomers may finally be able to shed light onto the debate whether can truly be called a planet.
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