LAUREL, Maryland — Humanity's first robotic emissary to Pluto has successfully phoned home and appears to be in good health after its close encounter with the dwarf planet earlier today.
Mission controllers received a status update from NASA's New Horizons probe as expected, at about 8:53 p.m. ET Tuesday, approximately 11 hours after its close flyby with Pluto.
"We have a healthy spacecraft. We've recorded data of the pluto system and we're outbound from Pluto," New Horizons mission operations manager Alice Bowman said they they received a signal from the craft.
"I can't express how i feel ... just like we planned it, just like we practiced. We did it. It's great."
The news of a healthy craft was met with cheers and a standing ovation here at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab. The crowd here includes more than 1,000 people, including members of the media, invited guests and children that were actually born the day New Horizons was launched in 2006.
New Horizon's signal home marks the end of the mission controllers' long, anxious wait for New Horizons to get back in touch after its close pass.
It also marks a major milestone for the spacecraft, which flew more than 3 billion miles to meet up with Pluto today, and for humanity, since this mission completes NASA's initial reconnaissance of the solar system.
"The United States is first nation to reach Pluto," NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in a news conference after establishing contact with New Horizons. "With this mission, we have visited every single planet in our solar system."
The craft was purposefully out of touch with the ground as it flew past Pluto and its moons. In order to make the most of the short time it had near the small world and its five moons, scientists directed the craft to focus all its resources on collecting science, and will now set about the months' long process of receiving and analyzing that data.
NASA plans to release the first high resolution close up views online on Wednesday, and those images will likely be far more detailed and perhaps more widely-shared Pluto heart image released on Tuesday. This image was taken on July 13, when the probe was still 476,000 miles away. MORE
By Miriam Kramer
Photo courtesy: NASA/APL/SwR