Today, July 14, 2015, at 07:49 EDT, New Horizons, NASA’s interplanetary space probe (629.4354922, built with 629.4354 Planetary flights, plus notation 922 from 523.4922 Pluto) passed within 8,000 miles of the surface of the dwarf planet Pluto (523.4922). NASA expects confirmation of the flyby and the spacecraft’s status at about 21:02 EDT tonight.
Launched in 2006, “New Horizons’ flyby of the dwarf planet and its five known moons is providing an up-close introduction to the solar system's Kuiper Belt, an outer region populated by icy objects ranging in size from boulders to dwarf planets. Kuiper Belt objects, such as Pluto, preserve evidence about the early formation of the solar system” (http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20150714-2).
In addition to its systems and scientific payload, New Horizons carries nine small but meaningful mementos (http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-102808a.html):
- Two US state quarters (737.4973, built with 737.49 Coins of specific countries, plus notation T2—73 United States), one from Florida where New Horizons launched and the other from Maryland where it was built;
- a piece of SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded spacecraft (629.47 Astronautical engineering [“Class here . . . spacecraft”]) to travel in space;
- a small container of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh (520.92, built with 520 Astronomy & allied sciences, plus notation T1—092 Biography), the astronomer who discovered Pluto;
- a 1991 US postal stamp, bearing an artist’s rendering of Pluto and the caption “NOT YET EXPLORED” (769.56495234922, built with 769.564 Postage stamps depicting various specific subjects, plus notation 9 from 704.949 [Iconography of] Other specific subjects, plus notation 5234922 Pluto);
- two US flags (929.9273, built with 929.92 Flags, plus notation T2—73 United States); and
- two CD-ROMs (004.565 Optical storage [“Including CD-ROM . . . discs”]), one with photos of the New Horizons team members and one with the names of 434,738 people who signed up in advance.