An Atlas 5 rockets off the launch pad carrying the New Horizons spacecraft on the first ever mission to the planet Pluto. As the fastest object ever launched, the spacecraft is expected to reach Pluto in a little over 9 years after a gravity assist from Jupiter boosts its speed to 13 miles a second. After the Pluto encounter, the spacecraft will journey on to explore other objects in the Kuiper Belt surrounding the Solar System. Images above show the liftoff through jettison of the solid rocket boosters. Launch occurred on 19 January 2006 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:00 p.m. after a couple of days of scrubs due to bad weather.
These handy tips were announced in case the rocket had a problem at liftoff and the spacecraft, carrying approximately 24-pounds of plutonium to power its radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), crashed to Earth potentially releasing its deadly power source:
In a final twist, it was announced after the launch that the ashes of American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh are onboard the spacecraft. Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 during a photographic search for a possible 9th planet conducted at Lowell Observatory.