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New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system. It was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida, on January 19, 2006, and conducted a Jupiter flyby 13 months later to gain further acceleration. New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.
The half-ton spacecraft contains scientific instruments to map the surface geology and composition of Pluto and its three moons, investigate Pluto's atmosphere, measure the solar wind, and assess interplanetary dust and other particles. After it passes Pluto, controllers plan to fly the spacecraft by one or two Kuiper Belt objects. New Horizons carries several souvenirs from Earth, including some of the remains of Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997), discoverer of Pluto, and a piece of SpaceShipOne.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory donated this to the Museum in 2008.
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Pluto was discovered in 1930 using an Earth-based telescope. 85 years later, the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto for a closeup view.