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Cheers and applause greeted the news that NASA probe New Horizons had made radio contact with flight controllers following its fly past of Pluto.

Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks NASA – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership. pic.twitter.com/FfztBSMbK0— President Obama (POTUS) July 15, 2015

About 13 hours after its closest approach to the dwarf planet, news that the craft was still intact was vital to the mission with 99 percent of the data gathered during the encounter still on the space ship.

Managers had estimated there was a 1-in-10,000 chance a debris strike could destroy New Horizons as it soared just 12,472 km from Pluto.

It will take about 16 months for the probe to transmit back all the thousands of images and measurements taken during its pass by of Pluto. By then the spacecraft will have travelled even deeper into the Kuiper Belt heading for a possible follow-on mission to one of Pluto’s cousins.