To Pluto at 52,000 MPH

The New Horizons spacecraft used Jupiter’s gravitational pull to increase its speed by 9,000 MPH to a total of 52,000 MPH, as reported by Alex DeMetrick at WJZ in Baltimore:

Heading To Pluto With Help From Jupiter

LAUREL, Md. There are all kinds of test drives, but only one at 52,000 miles per hour.

That’s the speed scientists here in Maryland are aiming for and as Alex DeMetrick reports, the test track is Jupiter.

Man’s first journey to Pluto left a little over a year ago. But for the New Horizons Spacecraft to get there, it’s difficult.

"There’s this little keyhole the spacecraft must reach," Dr. Hal Weaver from the Hopkins Applied Physics Lab said.

That little keyhole just happens to be the biggest planet in the solar system. Jupiter is the spacecraft’s turbo charger, guided by controllers at Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel.

"We’re using Jupiter as a catapult. By passing fairly close to Jupiter, it’s going to sling-shot us faster toward Pluto. We’re gaining 9,000 miles per hour," Weaver said.

It’s man’s fastest vehicle. While passing by, instruments will be checked out, observations made, including a ride down the planet’s massive magnetic tail.

New Horizons will train its instruments on Pluto in a fly-by in 2015. That’s a long time, but scientists hope it will get there thanks to Jupiter’s assistance.

Not only will New Horizons provide scientists with their first close look at Pluto, the spacecraft will also continue on into the Kuyper belt in search of other Pluto-type objects.


That spacecraft was speeding from the moment it was launched. Watch this launch video and you’ll see the camera operator had trouble keeping up with it: