posted on Nov, 1 2005 @ 06:01 PM
, a space exploration satellite slotted for launch in 2006, will
be making a 9 year journey to finally map out Pluto, the only planet in our Solar System that hasn't been visited by a satellite. It will be arriving
in 2015, but will start taking images of its approach in 2014. It is expected that three months before it reaches its initial destination, useful
mapping images will be coming back to Earth. Pluto is currently the 9th planet from the Sun.
Or is it?
Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, and it was, for the next 62 years, the farthest object observed in the Solar System.
Then, in 1992, another object was discovered in an asteroid belt known as the Kuiper Belt that lies outside of Neptune's orbit. Since then, over
1,000 objects have been discovered, one of which is possibly twice the size of Pluto. There are even theories there may be Mars sized objects, or even
Earth sized objects in the belt.
This has led to a question of classification of Pluto as a planet. While all 8 of the other planets' orbits lie in the same plane, Pluto's is
outside the plane by 17.1 degrees. Its orbit is also skewed, sometimes coming closer to the Sun than Neptune, other times lying farther away.
One purpose of this expedition is to map the surface of Pluto, which is probably the most fascinating aspect to the public. However, the more exciting
and interesting job of New Horizons is to explore other objects in the Kuiper Belt and perhaps unlock some of the mysteries surrounding it.