NASA probe to pass Mars orbit today


Sometime around 6 a.m. today, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was to soar past the orbit of Mars at 13 miles per second, en route to a rendezvous with the planet Pluto in the summer of 2015.

The fastest spacecraft ever rocketed from Earth, New Horizons made the flight from Earth in just 78 days, according to officials at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab near Laurel.

APL designed the mission and is managing the flight for NASA.

Because of the two planets' current positions in their orbits around the sun, New Horizons is actually still closer to Earth (51 million miles) than to Mars (186 million miles), officials said. Next on the timetable is Jupiter, 601.7 million miles away, where the spacecraft is slated to make scientific observations during a fly-by on Feb. 28, 2007.

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