Pluto, get ready for your close-up: A NASA spacecraft has roused itself from the final slumber of its nine-year trek to the edge of the solar system, setting the stage for the first close encounter with Pluto next year.
The New Horizons spacecraft, currently located 2.9 billion miles from Earth, had been in hibernation since August — with most of its systems turned off to reduce wear. But late Dec. 6, mission scientists received a confirmation signal from New Horizons at the probe’s Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. The probe is now wide awake for its 2015 flyby of Pluto.
At the time of its wakeup call, New Horizons was just over 162 million miles from Pluto. About 20 people gathered in a conference room here at APL to await the signal from New Horizons.