Pluto’s frozen wonderland like never seen before

NASA has released its sharpest images of Pluto’s frozen wonderland to date. The photos taken from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured resolutions between 250 to 280 feet per pixel – meaning the images reveal areas smaller than half a city block.

The super high-resolution images of the dwarf planet were taken during New Horizons July flyby.

The above video is composed of the images captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its July flyby.

The photos captured an 80 kilometre wide strip starting at Pluto’s horizon as seen from the spacecraft, to the shoreline of an icy plain known as Sputnik.

“These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth,” said John Grunsfeld in a statement, former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Image: Pluto’s ‘Badlands’ showing how erosion and faulting have sculpted this icy crust into rugged badlands on Pluto’s surface. Courtesy of: NASA.

The images were captured with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.

Image: Pluto’s Layered Craters and Icy Plains. Courtesy of: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

It took previous spacecrafts decades to capture images at this resolution of Venus and Mars, but took New Horizons only less than five months to capture images at this sharpness of Pluto.

Scientists expect more images of the icy terrain over the next several days.

Asteroid mining now legal – for the US

Private US companies can now mine asteroids for minerals, despite it violating a major treaty of space laws. This came after the signing of a major bill by United States President Barack Obama.

Image courtesy of: NASA

The bill called the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, allows US citizens to obtain, own and mine asteroids. This law makes it easier for private American companies to explore and obtain space resources commercially. Until now, nobody could claim commercial ownership of any space material.

The bill states: “A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.”

Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resource – an American company aiming to make profits from asteroid mining – said in a statement, “this is the single greatest recognition of property rights in history … this legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space.”

In 1967, the US wrote and signed the Outer Space Treaty along with 124 other countries – it states “celestial bodies,” including the moon may not be claimed by or owned by any nation.