New Horizons Pluto mission blinks out just days from goal

Before you start having a heart attack at the idea that we won't get any closer to Pluto, take heed – New Horizons is now back online. For just a short period of time – right around an hour – the craft blinked offline. This was a radio communications glitch that seemed to fix itself – somehow or another – by 3:15pm EDT on the 4th of July, when everyone was out at the beach sipping on brewskies. Except NASA engineers, of course, who were on the task at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, making certain this wasn't an error that'd have the craft offline just days before it reaches its closest point to Pluto.

Here's how close this mission came to disaster. Imagine planning the launch of a spacecraft for many years, getting the funding necessary for the mission, then dedicating a more than a decade to watching over it while it hurtles through space. Then it shuts off.

New Horizons didn't blink off a year after launch. It didn't turn off when it passed Jupiter. It shut down for an hour just a few days before it reached Pluto.

• Earth, Launch: 19 January 2006• 132524 APL, Flyby: 13 June 2006• Jupiter, Flyby: 28 Feb 2007• Pluto, Flyby: 14 June 2015• Observe other KBOs: 2016-2020• End of Mission: 2026

The image you're about to see shows where New Horizons is right now. Look how long it's been in space. Look how close it is to its goal. Look at the devastation we nearly faced. Can you imagine being in the lab when communication ceased?

We'd better take up a collection for heart medication. All for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Send at will.

Imagery above was captured via The Planets Today. There you're able to track a wide variety of space craft and space bodies as they whip through space at thousands of miles per hour. Have a peek!