After a nine-and-a-half-year journey travelling through the vacuum of space you’d probably be delighted by the thought of setting foot on land once more. Of course that wasn’t the fate for New Horizons after its epic three-billion-mile journey, indeed one year after it arrived it is still trailblazing its way beyond the Solar System towards its next destination deep in the Kuiper Belt, but thanks to the incredible imagery that the space probe took we can at least imagine what it would feel like to land on Pluto.
To celebrate one year since New Horizons arrived, NASA has created a video stitching together more than 100 images taken over a six-week period as the probe approached the dwarf planet, showing us what we would see were we to come in to land.
“Just over a year ago, Pluto was just a dot in the distance,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern. “This video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an approaching spacecraft and see Pluto grow to become a world, and then to swoop down over its spectacular terrains as if we were approaching some future landing.”
Although it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to actually do this in our lifetime (we’re still working out how to land people on Mars), our knowledge of the Solar System’s most mysterious body has exploded with the arrival of the New Horizons space probe, with NASA listing just a few of the incredible achievements in a statement, which include the complexity of its satellites, its blue atmosphere and, of course, its beautiful heart.
“It’s strange to think that only a year ago, we still had no real idea of what the Pluto system was like,” says Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist. “But it didn’t take long for us to realise Pluto was something special, and like nothing we ever could have expected. We’ve been astounded by the beauty and complexity of Pluto and its moons and we’re excited about the discoveries still to come.”