Five Years After the Flyby: 10 Cool Things We Have Learned About Pluto

Five years ago today, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft — designed, built and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland — made history. After a voyage of nearly 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, the intrepid piano-sized probe flew within 7,800 miles of Pluto. For the first time ever, we saw the surface of this distant world in spectacular, colored detail.

The encounter — which also included a detailed look at the largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon — capped the initial reconnaissance of the planets started by NASA’s Mariner 2 mission more than ​50 years before. It revealed an icy world replete in magnificent landscapes and geology — towering mountains, giant ice sheets, pits, scarps, valleys and terrains seen nowhere else in the solar system.