At around 3 billion miles from Earth, Pluto is currently inaccessible to humans, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be visited in the virtual world.
A new video created by NASA guides viewers through the New Horizons spacecraft’s journey to the dwarf planet.
The video was created by more than 100 images of Pluto taken last year by NASA’s craft. It starts with Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, before drawing closer and closer, eventually touching down on the shoreline of Sputnik Planum, an icy plain on the planet’s surface.
“This video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an approaching spacecraft and see Pluto grow to become a world, and then to swoop down over its spectacular terrains as if we were approaching some future landing,” Alan Stern, the principal scientist of the New Horizons mission, said in a news release.
New Horizons never actually landed on Pluto. After its epic 10-year journey, the craft came within 7,800 miles of its surface, before accelerating away.
Despite this, in the space of just 18 months Pluto has been transformed from being a mysterious ball of rock to an alien world potted with gigantic mountains made of ice and a hazy atmosphere of pure nitrogen.
More recently, astronomers discovered that Pluto could in fact be a planet with clouds.
Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona had been closely looking at all the pictorial evidence and discovered a “few bright cloud-like things that seem to be above and cutting across the topography”.
These tiny streaks can clearly be seen as overriding the mountains suggesting that Pluto does in fact have clouds.
Ever since New Horizons carried out its pass of Pluto the images that have come back have shown an incredible world that looks very similar to our own from huge scar-like canyons to searing ice mountains.
NASA’s Most Famous Images:
Edward H. White II, pilot of the Gemini 4 spacecraft, floats in the zero gravity of space with an earth limb backdrop circa November 1965.
Kinescope images of astronaut Commander Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 space shuttle during the space mission to land on the moon for the first time in history on July 20, 1969
The ascent stage of Orion, the Apollo 16 Lunar Module, lifts of from its descent stage to rendezvous with the Apollo 16 Command and Service Module, Casper, with astronaut Thomas Mattingly aboard in lunar orbit on 23rd April 1972.
Five NASA astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis look out overhead windows on the aft flight deck toward their counterparts aboard the Mir Space Station in March of 1996.
Photograph of the Milky Way Galaxy captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Dated 2007.
The exhaust plume from space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) as it launches from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying NASA's first Orion deep space exploration craft sits on its launch pad as it is prepared for a 7:05 AM launch on December 4, 2014 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A military pilot sits in the cockpit of an X-15 experimental rocket aircraft, wearing an astronaut's spacesuit circa 1959.
Echo 1, a spherical balloon with a metalized skin, was launched by NASA on 12th August 1960. Once in orbit the balloon was inflated until it reached its intended diameter of 30 metres and it was then used as a reflector to bounce radio signals across the oceans.
Four views of Earth rising above the lunar horizon, photographed by the crew of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module, while in lunar orbit, May 1969.
American geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt stands next to the US flag on the surface of the moon, during a period of EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site, December 1972.
The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) makes its way along Rideout Road (Alabama State Route 255) to the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama, 15th March 1978.
A crowd of people, viewed from behind, watch the launch of the first NASA Space Shuttle mission (STS-1), with Columbia (OV-102) soaring up into the sky, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, in the distance from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, 12 April 1981.
Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed at his maximum distance (320 ft) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984.
Aerial shot of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-41-D) as it takes off, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, 30 August 1984.
Two technicians inside a Space Shuttle external tank, circa 1985.
An astronaut's bootprint leaves a mark on the lunar surface July 20, 1969 on the moon. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999.
Astronaut Charles Moss Duke, Jr. leaves a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, 23rd April 1972.