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Launch Plus Three Years: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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On to the Frontier

The voyage through the vast emptiness of the outer solar system has made an impression on Binzel, a professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and a recognized expert on Pluto and the asteroids.

“Even if we had memorized the names and distances of the nine planets since childhood, the vastness of the outer solar system still remains impressive,” he says. “In three years we have crossed Saturn's orbit, but we still have six years to go. For the mission team, and all who follow along with us, we're experiencing the expanse of the solar system not just as distance, but as a significant measure of time on a human scale.”

“Only four spacecraft have preceded us, and only the Voyagers are still sending postcards back from the edge of human grasp,” McNutt says. “Pluto is the one planet that they missed in what has been, to date, the grandest tour of the solar system.

And their spacecraft is venturing into realms few have crossed before.

Since January 19, 2006...
• New Horizons’ thrusters have fired 462,315 times.

“History is hard to see when you are making it,” he adds, “but that is what the New Horizons team has done and continues to do.”

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