New_Horizons_-_Logo2_bigAfter being delayed a day because of gusty winds and a minor technical problem, Orion blasted into orbit this morning on its inaugural test flight. The flight is supposed to last for 4.5 hours, and if all goes well the spacecraft will splash down in the Pacific Ocean later today.

That’s not the only important space exploration event set to happen this weekend. On Saturday at around 8:30 p.m. Regina time the spacecraft New Horizons is supposed to emerge from hibernation. It was launched by NASA in 2006, and with gravity assists from Mars and Jupiter, it’s nearing the end stage of a seven-year journey to conduct a flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto at the outer edge of the solar system.

Similar to the Rosetta spacecraft that is currently studying the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, New Horizons has spent much of its journey in sleep mode to conserve energy. But with its July 2015 rendezvous with Pluto approaching, the craft is being revived so it can begin long-range study of Pluto and its companion moon Charon.

We’ll have more on the mission in the months to come. But for now, here’s a primer courtesy the Planetary Society website.