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Staff members at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., prepare to load the New Horizons spacecraft — packed in a custom-made, climate-controlled shipping container — aboard a truck for the 20-mile drive from APL to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on June 13, 2005.

Designed and built at APL — and proposed for launch in January 2006 — New Horizons would conduct the first spacecraft study of Pluto and Pluto's moon, Charon. Over the next three months at NASA Goddard the mission team will check New Horizons' balance and alignment in a series of spin tests; put it before wall-sized speakers that simulate the noise-induced vibrations of launch; and seal it in a four-story thermal-vacuum chamber that duplicates the extreme hot, cold and airless conditions of space. This fall the team plans to transport New Horizons to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for final launch preparations.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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