"We've come a long way across the solar system," said Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "When we launched it seemed like our 10-year journey would take forever, but those years have been passing us quickly. We're almost six years in flight, and it's just about three years until our encounter begins."
New Horizons will not orbit or land on Pluto but will pass by closely enough to allow its high-definition camera (LORRI) to image the dwarf planet's surface in unprecedented detail, resolving features as small as 200 feet across.
After the close encounter New Horizons will venture out into the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy bodies and other Pluto-like worlds. Plans to visit another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) are still being developed. But first things first: Pluto awaits!
"What a cool milestone!" said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. "Although we're still a long way - 1.5 billion kilometers from Pluto - we're now in new territory as the closest any spacecraft has ever gotten to Pluto, and getting closer every day by over a million kilometers."