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In Brief

President Obama Hails NASA Pluto Flyby

New Horizons Flying by Pluto
An artist's view shows NASA's New Horizons probe observing the Pluto-Charon system. President Obama congratulated NASA on a successful Pluto flyby Tuesday on Twitter. (Image credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

President Barack Obama fired off a congratulatory tweet Tuesday (July 14) celebrating the first-ever flyby of Pluto, which NASA's New Horizons spacecraft performed earlier that day.

New Horizons zoomed within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto Tuesday morning, capturing history's first up-close looks at the far-off dwarf planet and its five known moons. Prominent scientists and supporters all over the world issued statements and speeches in celebration — including President Obama.

"Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks ‪@NASA — it's a great day for discovery and American leadership," the president said via his official Twitter account, @POTUS.

Humanity has taken a number of big space-exploration steps since President Obama took office in January 2009 (though the missions were set in motion before his time).

For example, Obama's presidency has seen NASA launch the planet-hunting Kepler mission, which has discovered more than half of the nearly 2,000 known alien planets to date. And the first man-made orbiters of Mercury, the giant asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres reached their destinations in the past six years.

NASA's Voyager 1 probe, which launched in 1977, became the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space in 2012. And last year, the Rosetta orbiter, built by the European Space Agency, landed a probe on the surface of a comet for the first time ever.

New Horizons' visit to Pluto marks another milestone, a visit to the last (and usually most distant) of the nine classical planets that remained unexplored — but it's also just one of many objects residing in the outer reaches of the solar system that may have stories to tell.

Email Sarah Lewin at slewin@space.com or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+.

Sarah Lewin
SPACE.COM ASSOCIATE EDITOR — Sarah started writing for Space.com in June of 2015. Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.

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