A Maryland control room erupted in cheers late Tuesday after mission controllers got word the spacecraft on a historic voyage to Pluto had completed its scientific goals, including taking photos of celestial bodies never before glimpsed by humans, The New York Times reported.
The spacecraft New Horizons spacecraft made history Tuesday by completing a journey spanning nearly 10 years and 3 billion miles to reach the former planet, making the United States the only nation in the world to have visited all nine planets in the solar system.
According to the Times, the spacecraft could not continue communicate with Earth while collecting data by design, which made for a tense 22-hour-long waiting game as scientists awaited confirmation that the craft had successfully captured measurements and photos of Pluto and its five moons.
During the celebrations, S. Alan Stern, the principal investigator on the mission, reportedly told those gathered: “We’re going to go absolutely ape.”
Here’s a first look at photos of Pluto and its moons (all from NASA, via the Associated Press):
Composite image of Pluto (left) and its moon Charon, presented in exaggerated color to study surface materials.
Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.
A region of the former planet, near its equator.
Members of the New Horizons team react to seeing the spacecraft’s last and sharpest image of Pluto.