A US spacecraft sailed past the tiny planet Pluto in the distant reaches of the solar system on Tuesday, capping a journey of 3 billion miles (4.88 billion km) that began nine and a half years ago.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft passed by the ice-and-rock planetoid and its entourage of five moons at 7:49 a.m. EDT (1149 GMT). The event culminated an initiative to survey the solar system that the space agency embarked upon more than 50 years ago.
"Pluto just had its first visitor," President Obama posted on Twitter. "Thanks NASA. It's a great day for discovery and American leadership."
About 13 hours after its closest approach to Pluto, the last major unexplored body in the solar system, New Horizons phoned home, signaling that it had survived its 31,000 miles per hour(49,000 km per hour) blitz through the Pluto system.
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