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According to Popular Science (This article and its images were originally posted on Popular Science January 1, 2019 at 11:23AM.)
NASA celebrated the event with lots of fanfare just after midnight on New Year’s Day (Eastern Time), which is when the spacecraft actually made its closest approach of the alien rock. But that countdown was really just wishful thinking: New Horizons is more than 4 billion miles away from Earth, so it takes hours to transmit data back home. No one knew whether or not the mission had been successful until just after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, when New Horizons finally checked in. With a spacecraft moving more than 30,000 miles per hour and targeting an object just 20 miles across, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for mistakes in your trajectory; success was far from guaranteed.
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