Now, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has broken that record with several new photos.
According to a statement by NASA, the probe snapped a false-color image of a group of stars known as "Wishing Well" on December 5, 2017 while it was 6.12 billion km away from Earth and en route to the Kuiper Belt, a circumstellar disk surrounding the solar system.
"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, said in the NASA statement.
According to the press release, New Horizons is now back in hibernation mode and will reawaken on June 4 to begin preparations for a January 1, 2019 rendezvous with 2014 MU69, which is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto.
They might not look like much, sure―the above images are the closest ever taken of objects within the Kuiper Belt―but it's a landmark moment for space photography all the same. In preparation for these, the probe also established new records when it used its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to take a series of long-distance pictures. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.
The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken by Voyager 1 back in 1990.
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New Horizons covers more than 1.1 million km of space each day (KBO).
Image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, which temporarily broke the 27-year record set by Voyager 1. In the middle of this year will start a monitoring campaign, the details of which we wrote earlier, and while New Horizons is in hibernation mode, which will last until June of this year.
The coming New Year's flight past MU69 will be the farthest planetary encounter in history, happening one billion miles beyond the Pluto system - which New Horizons famously explored in July 2015, NASA said.
That's the gift of perspective that NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft gave us when it sent its iconic "pale blue dot" photo.
The probe then turned its attention to the distant Kuiper Belt. NASA said the spacecraft is expected to observe at least two-dozen other KBOs, dwarf planets and "Centaurs", former KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets. But they're arguably among the most incredible photographic images ever. This leaves the exploration up to New Horizons.
What makes New Horizons' momentous event even more interesting is that it broke its own record after just two hours.