It’s not everyday we get to explore a completely new planet. But on July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will become the first to visit Pluto. (And, oh yes, we did just call Pluto a planet!—more on that later.) The likes of this encounter haven’t been experienced in decades. We explored our solar system’s rocky inner planets in the 1960s and early 70s, the gassier middle planets in the late 80s, and now we’re finally about to add the final piece of the puzzle by probing the icy worlds of the outer solar system.
In just under four days’ time, New Horizons will hurtle past the dwarf planet and its moon at nearly 14 kilometres per second, gathering as much data as it can before it shoots past on its way out of the solar system.