NASA spacecraft completes farthest flyby in history.
- NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by a small lump of rock and ice called 2014 MU69, also nicknamed Ultima Thule, it’s now the most distant, and most primitive, place ever visited by humans.
- One mystery the New Horizons hope to resolve is whether MU69 is a single body (as seen in the artist’s concept above) or two bodies that are close together or even touching.
About New Horizon Mission:
- The New Horizons spacecraft launched on January 19, 2006 – beginning its odyssey to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
- New Horizons was the first mission to Pluto, completing the space-age reconnaissance of the planets that started 50 years earlier.
- It was also the first mission to explore the solar system’s recently-discovered “third zone,” the region beyond the giant planets called the Kuiper Belt.
- The Kuiper Belt is a scientifically rich frontier. Its exploration has important implications for better understanding comets, small planets, the solar system as a whole, the solar nebula, and disks around other stars.
- New Horizons will approach Ultima Thule three times closer than it came to Pluto, resulting in even more detailed pictures and other kinds of data.
- The spacecraft will obtain the first high-resolution geological and compositional maps of a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO), while conducting sensitive searches for atmospheric activity, satellites and rings.
The New Horizons Kuiper Belt Extended Mission.
- Is much more than the close flyby of Ultima Thule. The mission also takes advantage of the unique capabilities of New Horizons as an observation platform in the Kuiper Belt to study dozens of other KBOs in multiple ways that can’t be done from Earth.
- New Horizons also will make groundbreaking measurements of dust and the heliosphere plasma environment across the Kuiper Belt.