Exploring Outer Space with NASA's New Horizons

On this day, seven years ago, NASA completed its initial survey of our Solar System. New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe launched by NASA, was the first spacecraft ever to explore the dwarf planet Pluto.

New Horizons, which was about the size and shape of a grand piano, launched on January 19th, 2006, from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at a speed of around 36,400 miles per hour. The space probe was traveling so quickly, it passed out of the Moon’s orbit in only 9 hours. New Horizons was the fastest man-made object ever launched from Earth at the time, and was the fifth space probe ever to achieve the incredible speed needed to leave our Solar System.

Do you want to help foster your child’s love for space exploration? Keep reading for the full inspiring story of New Horizons and a list of great toys and games that foster a love for adventure alongside other important age appropriate developmental skills.

New Horizons Mission: Part 1

The interplanetary space probe travelled for more than a year before first reaching the planet Jupiter on February 28th, 2007. New Horizons flew at a distance of over 1.4 million miles from the gas giant and was able to record valuable information about the planet’s moons, atmosphere and magnetic fields.

After New Horizons left Jupiter, it travelled in a hibernation-like state for 7 years until it was brought back online on December 6th, 2014. The space probe’s approach toward Pluto took more than 6 months and was completed on July 14th, 2015. New Horizons flew just 7,800 miles above the surface of the dwarf planet. At this point, the space craft was more than 3,160,000,000 (three billion, one hundred sixty million) miles away from our Sun.

The flyby of Pluto was completed on October 25th, 2016, a little more than 3 months after it began. New Horizons gathered information about Pluto’s atmosphere, environment, moons and more. Beyond completing the initial survey of our solar system, New Horizons collected data on the Kuiper belt, a ring-shaped accumulation of gas, dust, asteroids, and remnants from the forming of the Solar System. The Kuiper belt is similar to the asteroid belt but much bigger - roughly 20 times as wide.

New Horizons Mission: Part 2

Earlier this year, on May 26th, 2022, a proposal to extend the New Horizons mission for at least two more years was approved. The interplanetary space probe will work to gather data that will help us understand how pieces and particles in space behave when they are on the outskirts of our Sun’s orbit. NASA scientists expect that the New Horizons mission will come to an end in the mid to late 2030’s. By 2038, the interplanetary space probe will be more than 9,296,000,000 (nine billion, two hundred ninety-six million) miles away from our Sun. New Horizons is on track to join the Voyager spacecraft in the outer heliosphere as one of the most distant space craft to date.

You can keep up with the current location of New Horizons and learn more about its mission on The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory website dedicated to this incredible spacecraft.

Out Of This World Toys & More

People of all ages are interested in the unknown. Space exploration promises the discovery of entirely new worlds and pushes the boundaries of our scientific understanding. Exploring outer space brings perspective to questions about our place in the universe and how we got here. This curious spirit is vital for people of all ages, helping us to expand our knowledge, build connections, and so much more.

Ages 0 - 3 

Here We Are

by Oliver Jeffers

Here We Are is a user’s guide to life on Earth. Be it a complex view of our planet’s terrain, a deep look at our place in space, or a guide to animals - wit and humor combined with kindness and tolerance create a must-have book. 

Buzz Lightyear’s Planetary Mission


Join the iconic space ranger and his 3 friends to find his spaceship’s missing fuel cell with this LEGO DUPLO set for Disney and Pixar fans. Then, blast off for endless adventures in Buzz’s spaceship.

Rocket Ball Air Stacker

by Hape

Take your stacking skills to a whole new level with this Rocket Ball Air Stacker! Place the ball in the base, insert any of the included clear tubes and turn on the fan! Stack other tubes and see the ball flying to the top.

Ages 4 - 6

Outer Space Sensory Bin

by Faber-Castell

Complete a space mission while practicing fine motor skills with an outer space themed sensory bin! Play with space rocks, squishy aliens and planets to promote sensory development.

Outer Space 60-Piece Puzzle

by Ravensburger

Perfect for young children, this 60-piece puzzle features colorful planets in our solar system, astronauts on the moon and satellites floating by.

Space Rocket

by Daron

This NASA Space Rocket is fully functional with lights and sounds. Two compartments and the cockpit open to reveal an adjustable control room and space to place the Junior Rover. 

Ages 7 - 10


My Book of Stars and Planets

by Parshati Patel

Filled with stunning NASA photography and fascinating details for every young stargazer and budding astronaut, My Book of Stars and Planets is the perfect first reference book on space and the universe for kids.

3-in-1 Space Shuttle Adventure

by LEGO Creator

Featuring a cockpit, control panel, opening cargo doors, an extendable arm with a satellite, and retractable wheels, this LEGO creator 3-in-1 building set is perfect for passionate space fans. Includes astronaut mini-figure. 


by Jim Ottaviani, Maris Wicks

A nonfiction graphic novel about notable female astronauts. The Soviet space program made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. Meanwhile, in the United States, NASA’s first female astronauts were racing toward milestones of their own.

Ages 11 - 13 

Glowing Galactic Astros

by University Games

Transform your space into a glow-in-the-dark universe! This Glowing Galactic Astros Set includes 20 Astros and Adhesive Putty.

Space Observatory 759-Piece Escape Puzzle

by Ravensburger

A huge fireball is racing towards the Earth! Only you can save our planet by assembling and firing a powerful laser hidden within this space observatory. However, the box-top image isn't the same as the puzzle picture - you'll have to decipher the clues on the in-box leaflet.

Planetary Vision 1000-Piece Puzzle

by Ravensburger

Piece together an out-of-this-world scene featuring planets, stars, the sun, and other breathtaking elements of our gorgeous galaxy in this 1000-piece puzzle.

Ages 14 +


NASA Space Shuttle Discovery

by LEGO Creator Expert

Celebrate the wonders of space with this LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery model building set. With 2,354 pieces, this engaging challenge lets you build the Space Shuttle Discovery, plus the Hubble Space Telescope, launched on NASA’s STS-31 mission in 1990. 

Orbiting Solar System

by Thames & Kosmos

Build a mechanical model of the solar system including the sun and eight planets, wind it up and watch the planets revolve around the sun. Learn about the order of the planets, their relative sizes, their rates of revolution around the sun, their appearance, and other planetary facts. 

Tiny Planetarium

by Nick Perilli

Bring the mystery and wonder of the night sky to your space with this charming miniature constellation projector! This kit includes: a 3" star projector with a disk including 12 Hellenistic constellations, a 48-page illustrated mini book about the mythology and lore behind each constellation.

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