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New Horizons probe sends its last Pluto data

New Horizons probe
An artist’s conception shows the New Horizons spacecraft beaming data back to Earth. (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

More than 15 months after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, the last bit of data captured during the flyby has finally been transmitted back to Earth.

NASA said the final transmission was a digital segment of an observation sequence captured by New Horizons’ Ralph/LEISA imager, focusing on Pluto and its biggest moon, Charon. The readings were stored up on July 14, 2015, as the piano-sized probe zoomed past Pluto about 3 billion miles from Earth. Since then, New Horizons’ distance from Earth has grown to 3.4 billion miles.

The downlink took place at 2:48 a.m. PT Oct. 25 via NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. In all, more than 50 gigabits of data relating to Pluto and its moons have been transmitted back to Earth.

Why did it take so long to send back an amount of data that would basically fit on a thumb drive?

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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