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US spacecraft survives close encounter with Pluto

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– ‘Truly amazing’ –

The spacecraft passed 7,750 miles – or about the distance from New York to Mumbai, India – from Pluto’s surface at 1149 GMT.

“It is truly amazing that humankind can go out and explore these worlds. And to see Pluto be revealed just before our eyes – it is just fantastic,” Bowman said.

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said scientists can now look forward to a “16-month data waterfall” that will help scientists write whole new textbooks about Pluto.

“We have completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, an endeavour started under president (John F.) Kennedy more than 50 years ago, continuing today under President (Barack) Obama,” Stern told reporters.

Obama cheered the mission on Twitter.

“Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks @NASA – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership,” the US president wrote.

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