Probe ‘phones home’ from 4 billion miles away

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern high-fives mission operations manager Alice Bowman at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory after the team receives word that the spacecraft is healthy. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

LAUREL, Md. — NASA’s New Horizons science team today received confirmation that its spacecraft survived a New Year’s encounter with an icy world 4 billion miles away known as Ultima Thule — and it’s carrying a priceless load of data.

“We have a healthy spacecraft,” mission operations manager Alice Bowman announced here at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby. We are ready for Ultima Thule science transmissions … science to help us understand the origins of our solar system.”

The report was greeted with cheers and hugs at APL’s mission control center.

“This spacecraft is rock-solid!” the mission’s principal investigator, Alan Stern, told GeekWire just after New Horizons’ status report.

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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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