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Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

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1.9 New Horizons in the making

New Horizons is a NASA mission that aims to map the surface geology and chemistry of Pluto and Charon and investigate the atmosphere of Pluto during a flyby mission.

As well as scientific instruments, the New Horizons spacecraft is carrying a collection of more than 430 000 names stored on a compact disc, part of a scheme by NASA to engage the public.

What will Pluto and Charon be like? Will they share similarities with Triton? Triton’s retrograde orbit makes it likely that it was captured into orbit about Neptune. Strong evidence suggests that Triton was originally part of a two-body system, similar to Pluto and Charon (the smaller moons are an irrelevance in this respect), before it was captured, after straying too close to Neptune.

The New Horizons spacecraft being prepared in ultra-clean facilities.
Figure 5 The New Horizons spacecraft being prepared in ultra-clean facilities.

However, neither Pluto nor Charon turned out to look much like Triton