In 2006, NASA dispatched an ambassador to the planetary frontier. The New Horizons spacecraft is now halfway between Earth and Pluto, on approach for a dramatic flight past the icy planet and its moons in July 2015.
After 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, on a historic voyage that has already taken it over the storms and around the moons of Jupiter, New Horizons will shed light on new kinds of worlds we've only just discovered on the outskirts of the solar system.
Pluto gets closer by the day, and New Horizons continues into rare territory, as just the fifth probe to traverse interplanetary space so far from the Sun. And the first to travel so far, to reach a new planet for exploration.
New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers mission category, larger and more expensive than Discovery missions but smaller than the Flagship Program. The cost of the mission (including spacecraft and instrument development, launch vehicle, mission operations, data analysis, and education/public outreach) is approximately 650 million USD over 15 years (from 2001 to 2016). An earlier proposed Pluto mission—Pluto Kuiper Express—was cancelled by NASA in 2000 for budgetary reasons. Further information relating to an overview with historical context can be found at the IEEE website and gives further background and details, with more details regarding the Jupiter fly-by.