NASA Pluto probe launch postponed

NASA has postponed the launch of the world's first probe to the icy, never-explored planet of Pluto after excessively strong winds put the liftoff at risk.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 12:40 IST

NASA has postponed the launch of the world's first probe to the icy, never-explored planet of Pluto after excessively strong winds put the liftoff at risk.

Engineers at the US space agency struggled with gusty winds throughout the two-hour launch window at Cape Canaveral, Florida before they finally aborted Tuesday's planned liftoff for the massive Atlas V rocket.

They scheduled a new launch for Wednesday, setting a two hour window from 2346 IST for the ambitious mission to the outer reaches of the solar system.

"The ground winds exceeded our limits," said a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). "The ground winds were a little too stiff for us."

The New Horizons mission endeavours to propel a grand-piano-sized spacecraft, packed with scientific instruments to Pluto, the outermost of the nine official planets of the solar system.

Flying at unparalleled speeds of up to 75,000 kilometres per hour, it will take the craft ten years to reach Pluto.

The craft will explore Pluto and its large moon Charon and, continuing on a trajectory away from the sun, will then spend five more years probing the icy and rocky bodies of the Kuiper Belt.

Scientists hope the ambitious journey will deliver new views and insights into our solar system, allowing them to better understand the origins of Earth and the other planets some 4.5 billion years ago.

"What we know about Pluto today could fit on the back of a postage stamp," said Colleen Hartman, NASA deputy associate administrator.

First Published: Jan 18, 2006 08:46 IST