On Jan. 19, 2006, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft lifted off from the Florida coastline, precisely 10 years ago. The nearly 1,000-pound spacecraft flew from Earth at more than 36,000 miles per hour, which is faster than any other spacecraft to date.
New Horizons was launched onboard the Lockheed Martin Atlas V launch vehicle, which housed a Boeing third stage. The rocket was the most powerful onethat the U.S. space agency used so far in this century.
Thirteen months after its launch, New Horizons conducted a flyby past Jupiter. This gave the spacecraft a gravity boost, giving its pace an additional 9,000 miles per hour towards Pluto.
The Jupiter flyby also gave the New Horizons team the chance to test the spacecraft's onboard instrument on the planet and its biggest stellar companions. The Jupiter flyby produced major results, including the first close-up images of lightning that happened near the giant planet's poles. It also produced the initial motion-picture sequence images of an exploding volcano on Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io.
New Horizons' encounter with Pluto kicked off in January 2015 when it captured distant images of the dwarf planet and its moon Charon. The images where mostly used for navigation.
On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft completed its 9.5-year journey to Pluto and its moons. The spacecraft covered over 3 billion miles.
"With that flyby New Horizons completed a long-held goal of the scientific community and also five-decade-long quest by NASA to explore all the planets known at the start of the space age," said Southwest Research Institute's New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern. The spacecraft continues to transmit data from the July 14 flyby, revealing the mystery and complexity of the planet.
Becca Sepan, the Mission Operations Flight Control Lead at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), shared that for her, New Horizons' 10th year anniversary is a time to ponder on how the team has come together in the years that passed.
She said that most of the members across various disciplines went through one major life event during the time New Horizons was in flight at the very least. When the spacecraft took off, Sepan was engaged for less than a month. She is now married and with two children.
As for Melissa Jones, a New Horizons flight controller, her current family technically "didn't' exist" 10 years ago. When New Horizons conducted its Pluto flyby, Jones watched the scene unfold with her husband and three children at the APL.