(NBC NEWS) LAUREL, Md. — Signals from a spacecraft 3 billion miles away swept over Earth on Tuesday, confirming that NASA's New Horizons probe survived its history-making Pluto flyby.
The radio signals were received by a Deep Space Network antenna in Spain four and a half hours after they were sent out from the spacecraft at the speed of light, and a full 13 hours after the probe made its close pass. But they electrified hundreds of VIPs, journalists and Pluto fans here at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as if the main event had just happened.
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The audience stood up, applauded and waved American flags as, one by one, mission controllers reported "nominal" status for the hardware that was their responsibility.