The whole world is now testing technologies that will enable increasingly complex and automated expeditions.
The successful completion of the New Horizons mission represents the end of an era in space exploration. The Mariner exploration program, begun in the early sixties, laid the groundwork for the New Horizon’s probe that recently broadcast high-definition images from the surface of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. With these images, the program has achieved its goal – the complete exploration of the planets that orbit the sun.
The New Horizons probe, which was launched by the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), has also finally enabled us to put a face to a heavenly body that was first spotted in the 1930s. Until these most recent images were acquired, we had seen nothing more than low-resolution coloured blotches, mostly obtained from Hubble telescope images.
In August 2006, just a few months after New Horizons was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Pluto’s planet status was revoked by the International Astronomical Union. It is now ranked alongside the many other large bodies floating in the Kuiper belt, a region populated by asteroids external to the solar system.