Pluto and CharonNine years after its launch from Earth, NASA’s New Horizons space probe passes within 8,000 miles of the surface of Pluto, and within 18,000 miles of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Detailed images and observations are obtained of both of these bodies, with less detailed data gathered on Pluto’s four smaller, outermost moons. Cruising through the Pluto system at 30,000 miles per hour, New Horizons must break contact with Earth for nearly a full day to aim its cameras and other instruments at their targets. It’s not until some 12 hours after the point of closest flyby that New Horizons re-establishes contact with Earth, reporting that it has successfully completed the encounter with no problems.