AUG 28, 2015 10:36 PM PDT

NASA Selects Possible New Target for New Horizons Spacecraft

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

You probably remember mid-last month when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took record-breaking high quality photographs of Pluto’s surface, and as you’re probably well aware, New Horizons will be continuing to zoom out into uncharted territory beyond Pluto and out into the Kuiper Belt.
 
NASA has announced on Friday that New Horizons will be taking on a new potential target out in the Kuiper Belt: 2014 MU69, a little icy body that NASA notes is approximately one billion miles past Pluto.
NASA has chosen a possible new object to examine with the New Horizons spacecraft; a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO).
2014 MU69 is known as a KBO, which is short for Kuiper Belt Object. It is neither a planet, nor a dwarf planet. It just happens to be something out there that might cross paths with New Horizons, so NASA wants to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn more about what’s out there.
 
“Even as the New Horizon’s spacecraft speeds away from Pluto out into the Kuiper Belt, and the data from the exciting encounter with this new world is being streamed back to Earth, we are looking outward to the next destination for this intrepid explorer,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and chief of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science.”
 
There is, of course, a policy that NASA has to follow before they can go ahead with the project; there will need to be funding for the project and NASA needs the green light to proceed. NASA will propose the mission in 2016.
 
At this point in time, 2014 MU69 is the most suitable object for New Horizons to try and tango with. Since objects in the Kuiper Belt are so hard to see from here on Earth, it’s hard for scientists to estimate what New Horizons might come in contact with.
 
NASA is hopeful that objects in the Kuiper Belt will provide the firm with more clues about the formation of the solar system, as the cold temperatures way out there, far from the Sun, are thought to have preserved many samples of what formed our solar system.
 
“There’s so much that we can learn from close-up spacecraft observations that we’ll never learn from Earth, as the Pluto flyby demonstrated so spectacularly,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer, also of SwRI. “The detailed images and other data that New Horizons could obtain from a KBO flyby will revolutionize our understanding of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs.”
 
We still have plenty of time before New Horizons will get close to the KBO. New Horizons isn't expected to reach the Kuiper Belt until 2019. Right now, New Horizons is continuing to transmit data back to Earth from its Pluto flyby mission. Higher resolution images are expected in September.



Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 19, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 19, 2019
Apollo 12 - A Dramatic Journey Led by the Desire to Explore
On November 19th, the Apollo 12 astronauts, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, became, respectively, the third and the fourth men to ever walk on the Moon’s
NOV 24, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 24, 2019
SpaceX's Starship Prototype Explodes During Pressure Test
SpaceX is best known for its Falcon-series of rockets that often resupply the International Space Station and ferry satellites into space to deploy an orbi
JAN 12, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 12, 2020
The Core Stage of NASA's SLS Rocket is On the Move
Artemis is a bold new mission by NASA to push humanity forward in its ongoing quest to achieve long-term deep space travel. Artemis will begin by utilizing
JAN 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2020
Astronomers Have Found the Farthest Galaxy Group
An international team of astronomers funded in part by NASA has found the farthest galaxy group identified to date.  The trio of galaxies, called EGS7
FEB 04, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 04, 2020
What Are NASA's 'Great Observatories?'
NASA recently retired its Spitzer Space Telescope, one of four specialized space-based observatories that together made up the American Space Agency’
MAR 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 16, 2020
What Would it Take to Visit Alpha Centauri?
Humankind has long pondered upon the ambition of becoming a multiplanetary species. While much of our realistic focus resides right here in our own solar s
Loading Comments...