NASA said Sunday its New Horizons space probe remains on track for a historic flyby of Pluto after the mission suffered what appeared to be a nail-biting glitch.
Team scientists were on edge this Fourth of July when the New Horizons spacecraft entered “safe mode” just 10 days before its final destination, briefly cutting out communications with Earth before reconnecting, NASA said in a statement. Investigators said the anomaly was caused by an operational glitch that will not compromise the quality of the mission. New Horizons was launched in 2006 and has already traveled 3.5 billion miles.
“I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft,” said Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “Now — with Pluto in our sights — we’re on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold.”
The New Horizons mission is expected to provide the first close-up observations and detailed measurements of the icy dwarf planet when it approaches Pluto at about 7:50 a.m. ET on July 14. To date, NASA said, only Voyager 2 has explored the far reaches of our solar system, though the spacecraft did not visit Pluto.