Press Release

Senator Mikulski Praises Pluto Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
July 9, 2015
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U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), issued the following statement in anticipation of the New Horizons spacecraft’s Pluto flyby:

“New Horizons is an amazing spacecraft and an amazing mission. Travelling more than 2 billion miles over 9 long years, it already has thrilled us with marvelous images and challenged us with new knowledge. How spectacular! New Horizons is charting new territory every day. And like the rest of the world, I’m sitting on the edge of my chair in anticipation of New Horizons’ Pluto flyby on Tuesday. I’m so proud of the scientists, engineers, and researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory that made this mission possible. The scientific exploration and knowledge they’ve dedicated their lives to are the building blocks for innovation and discovery that lead to new frontiers, but also to new ideas that lead to new products and new jobs. They’ve always had my support and they always will.”

Senator Mikulski successfully fought to ensure a cost effective mission would fly to Pluto in the early 2000s after cost and schedule overruns led to NASA’s cancellation of the original Pluto mission. 

Senator Mikulski put money into the Federal checkbook for a lower cost Pluto mission, eventually named New Horizons, beginning in fiscal year 2002.  After reviving the Pluto project, Senator Mikulski worked with NASA and with the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), who won the mission management contract for New Horizons, keeping the mission on track and on budget until its launch in January 2006. 

New Horizons has set records as the first ever mission to Pluto, the fastest spacecraft ever launched, and the first interstellar mission not operated by NASA. 

New Horizons’ camera has already taken the highest resolution photos to date of Jupiter and Pluto.  Scientists have learned that Pluto is red, not gray, and have found unexplained 300-meter wide features on Pluto’s equator that may tell us more about our solar system’s composition and history.  Raising as many new questions as it has answered, the New Horizons mission is charting new territory each day.

On Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at 7:49 am EDT, New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto, about 8,000 miles away, taking photographs and measurements to send back to John Hopkins scientists at APL in Laurel, Maryland. 

New Horizons also passed Jupiter on February 28, 2007.  After passing Pluto next Tuesday, New Horizons will continue collecting data as it moves through the Kuiper Belt, through the outer edges of the heliosphere, and into interstellar space. 

SpaceRef staff editor.