WASHINGTON, D.C. -- March 12, 2007 -- Yuri's Night is proud to announce that New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft currently en route to the ninth planet, Pluto, and the Kuiper Belt, will begin its final encounter with the Pluto system on April 12, 2015.
The year 2015 will be the 54th anniversary of the spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth and the 34th anniversary of the first Shuttle launch. Each April 12, Yuri's Night holds parties around the planet to commemorate these occasions. New Horizons mission PI Dr. Alan Stern will be present at the Yuri's Night Washington, D.C. party to talk more about the mission. "We're proud to be working with Yuri's Night to excite people about the past, present, and future of space exploration," Stern said. "New Horizons is headed to the frontier of our solar system, 3 billion miles away. We hope that our collaboration with Yuri's Night will bring together space enthusiasts of all types to communicate to the public the importance of outer space."
New Horizons is a NASA New Frontiers mission managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Launched on January 19, 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft is due to pass Jupiter on February 28, 2007, en route to photographing and examining Pluto and other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Currently traveling at over 51,000 miles per hour, New Horizons was the fastest spacecraft ever launched. Yet, it will require eight more years to reach planet Pluto, which will be more than 3 billion miles away from the Sun when New Horizons arrives. After its Pluto-system encounter, New Horizons will continue on to explore the Kuiper Belt, then escape the solar system and fly into interstellar space.
The first spacecraft to explore Pluto and its system of moons, New Horizons may also be the last for a while. As Pluto moves away from the Sun, its atmosphere will freeze and condense on its surface, making photography and other measurements difficult. Pluto will not be as close to the Sun as it is now for nearly another 250 years. New Horizons is carrying a compact disc with the names of more than 430,000 people from around the world who are interested in the project, the first-ever planetary flight experiment developed by undergraduate students, and the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.
For more information on New Horizons. including the latest images and data from the spacecraft, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu.
About Yuri's Night
Yuri's Night is a program of the Space Generation, an organization dedicated to engaging and developing the next generation of leaders, using space to make a difference on Earth and sharing their passion for space with the public. Since 2001, each year Yuri's Night has held parties of all sizes in celebration of Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space. Parties of all sizes have been held on all seven continents, including Antarctica; this year's festivities currently involve 37 events in 10 countries and counting.