NASA finally launches probe into Pluto

NASA has launched a trailblazing probe into Pluto, at the solar system's outermost limits, after 2 days of delays.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 15:16 IST

NASA has launched a trailblazing probe into Pluto, at the solar system's outermost limits, after two days of delays.

The Atlas V-551 rocket propelling the probe into space blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 2 pm on Thursday (0030 IST), after being postponed for two consecutive days due to inclement weather and technical problems.

On Tuesday, high winds at the Cape Canaveral, Florida launch pad prevented the lift-off of the Atlas V rocket, while on Wednesday a power failure at the Maryland laboratory managing the mission halted the launch.

Cloudy skies led to minor delays on Thursday but did not trump the launch.

It will take the New Horizons spacecraft 10 years to reach Pluto, travelling at unparalleled speeds of up to 75,000 kilometres per hour.

The probe was set to attain that speed after completing separation from the rocket that launched it, just 42 minutes after launch.

Nine hours after lift-off, New Horizons will pass by the moon. It took Apollo astronauts three days to reach the vicinity of the moon.

Had NASA failed to launch New Horizons by January 27, its trip to Pluto would have taken several more years.

NASA's launch timetable was built around a unique planetary alignment that would enable the gravitational force of Jupiter to sling the probe outward at accelerated speeds, cutting about 30 months off the trip.

First Published: Jan 20, 2006 08:50 IST