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.