NASA rang in the New Year on Tuesday with a historic flyby of the farthest, and quite possibly the oldest, cosmic body ever explored by humankind — a tiny, distant world called Ultima Thule — in the hopes of learning more about how planets took shape. A series of anxiously awaited “phone home” signals arrived after 10:30 am (1530 GMT), indicating that the spacecraft had made it, intact, through the risky, high-speed encounter. “We have a healthy spacecraft,” said mission operations manager Alice Bowman, as cheers erupted in the control rooms at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.
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