‘A hallmark moment in human history’ as New Horizons’ epic journey culminates in Pluto flyby

Above is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach - 7:49 a.m. EDT. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 766,000 kilometres from the surface. Members of the New Horizons science team react to the image.

“This is truly a hallmark in human history,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s science mission chief.

The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 19, 2006, but was demoted seven months later to dwarf status. Scientists in charge of the US$720 million mission, as well as NASA officials, hope the new observations will restore Pluto’s honour.

PHOTOS: NASA, Bill Ingalls

Nasa confirma evidências da existência de fluxos de água líquida em Marte.

“Nossa missão em Marte tem sido a de ‘seguir a água’, em nossa busca por vida no universo, e agora temos a ciência de forma convincente que valida o que temos suspeitado por muito tempo”, disse John Grunsfeld, astronauta e associado administrador de Ciência da NASA.


Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration showing us why basic scientific research is so important.
– John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate 

When approaching Venus in the early days of planetary exploration by spacecraft, we speculated wildly, throwing our best guesses at what lay beneath the Venusian atmospheric shroud. As our technology improved, we sent our Venera, Pioneer, Magellan, and Mariner spacecraft to our sister planet, determined to uncover the source of her unapologetically hellish conditions. Once it was revealed that Venus represented the most extreme example (so far) of a runaway greenhouse effect, our morning and evening star became a next-door laboratory for Earth’s worst case scenario.

Spacecraft missions Mariner 6 and 7 along with Vikings 1 and 2 performed similar experiments when studying Mars. Upon approach, however, it was observed (postulated beforehand by astronomer Carl Sagan) that Mars experienced hemisphere-engulfing dust storms that blanketed the surface features from view. Mars slowly showcased its long awaited mysteries when our patient robotic emissaries orbiting the Red Planet communicated to us features contrary to our sci-fi projections of an alien civilization redirecting water from the poles through canals and Martian channels. Just as Venus had, Mars provided us further questions, and entirely new mysteries to solve. Yet another neighboring world which would serve as an extra-terrestrial lab for us to inquire into its quite obviously bereft water source, and its history as a planet that remains in a Shrodinger-like “dead or alive” phase. 

Now, with New Horizons’ recent flyby of the enigmatic castaway in our solar system, we are once again reeling with giddy anticipation from the images slowly being returned to us bit by bit, Pluto subtly lifting its veil on 85 years of curiosity. And a worthy wait it has been, because - dwarf planet or not - Pluto has much to teach us about Earth’s origins, the formation of the solar system itself, and ultimately, our own (as Bill Nye describes) “place in space.” 

Congratulations to the New Horizons team from NASA and APL to everywhere and everyone in between for a successful #PlutoFlyBy mission poised to rewrite history by revealing to us how the pages were put together in the first place. 

– The Endeavorist Team

s/o to syldenn for the stellar Pluto fan art :)


Tomorrow, July 11th (by close of business) is the final day to RSVP for the American Astronautical Society’s 60th Anniversary event!

And yes, you read that right. Astronauts and Scientists. Not just any astronauts and scientists either…

…Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator), John Grunsfeld (Associate Administrator of NASA’s Mission Science Directorate), Sandra Magnus (Executive Director of the AIAA or American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)…all of which will be speaking on our panel to discuss the film!

Beforehand, however, the AAS Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Dr. Edward Stone!

Not familiar with Stone? Edward Stone was the Former Director of JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the Lead Project Scientist for a little spacecraft you may know…

…that’s right. Ed Stone has been working with the Voyager spacecraft since the Grand Tour Mission. And what a time for an event like this to celebrate the man, as Voyager 1 was just confirmed “interstellar” (again) via data transmitted back from deep space!

So, if you can make it, join us on July 16th from 6pm-9pm in the National Academy of Sciences Building, for an evening of cosmic proportions :)


Yesterday, former astronaut John Grunsfeld came over to the startorial side when he wore this planet tie for a Pluto Flyby briefing on NASA TV. HE IS ONE OF US NOW! 

The tie is available from multiple outlets: Armstrong Air & Space Museum,,

- Summer


On Thursday I went to a talk by John Grunsfeld. Grunsfeld has flown in space five times, and is currently NASA’s Associate Administrator to the Science Mission Directorate. His last shuttle mission was the final Hubble servicing mission, STS-125, which was also one of the missions in “Hubble:3D.”

Dr. Grunsfeld talked all about the recent discoveries in the solar system, but he also discussed his STS-125 flight, and how the mission could have easily gone wrong many, many times. Unfortunately my photos don’t really sell the event. But if you ever get a chance to see him, go - he’s a great speaker.

#TBT Felt pretty out of this world to hang with former NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld, former NASA astronaut & current NASA Chief Admin Charles Bolden, and Lead Project Scientist for the Voyager spacecraft & CalTech Physics Professor Edward Stone (who was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award that evening) during the screening of ‘I Want To Be An Astronaut’ in the National Academy of Sciences Building in DC for the American Astronautical Society’s 60th Anniversary.

Humbling doesn’t even cover it. So much stellar in one image. I’ve never felt closer to Carl Sagan than engaging with one of the most influential men responsible for the Voyager’s’ success.

SM4: Astronaut Andrew Feustel and WFC3

But for the absence of gravity, astronaut Andrew Feustel, perched on the end of the remote manipulator system arm, would be a bit top heavy as he helps to install the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) during a May 14 spacewalk to perform work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Out of frame is veteran astronaut John Grunsfeld, his spacewalking crewmate. The pair kicked off five back to back days of extravehicular activity for the STS-125 crew. Feustel and Grunsfeld will participate in two of the remaining four spacewalks.

Credit: NASA

NASA Scientists Hope to Find Alien Life on Jupiter's Moon Europa

NASA Scientists Hope to Find Alien Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

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Do we have neighbors on Jupiter’s moon Europa? That’s what NASA officials want to find out, and they asked scientists at a workshop earlier this week to consider ways to search for alien life within plumes of water vapor that seem to shoot from the moon’s surface, reports.


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NASA Discovers Liquid Water on Mars

NASA Discovers Liquid Water on Mars

NASA has announced that liquid water has been found on the red planet Mars. In the past it was known that water existed on Mars in the form of ice, but scientists thought that the atmosphere was simply too thin for liquid water to be even remotely possible. “While the discovery doesn’t by itself offer evidence of life on Mars, either past or present, it does boost hopes that the harsh landscape…

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NASA Says Mars Appears to Have Flowing Rivulets of Salty Water

NASA Says Mars Appears to Have Flowing Rivulets of Salty Water

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Mars appears to have flowing rivulets of salty water, at least in the summer, scientists reported Monday in a finding that could have major implications for the possibility of life on the red planet. (more…)

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