Nasa scientists have expressed joy and relief after receiving a signal from the New Horizons probe, proving it survived a record-breaking exploratory mission four billion miles from Earth.
The probe made contact to confirm its successful flyby of the icy Ultima Thule space rock, which is 19 miles wide and shaped like a giant peanut.
This marks a record for the most distant object to be explored.
New Horizon obtained gigabytes of photos and other observations which it will send home over the next few months.
Controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland cheered and clapped as they received the signal.
Mission operations manager Alice Bowman said: “We have a healthy spacecraft. We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby.”
Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “In addition to being the first to explore Pluto, today New Horizons flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft and became the first to directly explore an object that holds remnants from the birth of our solar system.
“This is what leadership in space exploration is all about.”
Confirmed! @NASANewHorizons flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft. Congratulations to the New Horizons team, @JHUAPL and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again! pic.twitter.com/t47BOmo7c1
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 1, 2019