The mission operations workforce for NASA’s New Horizons probe has woke up the spacecraft from its robotic hibernation, and now it’ll keep awake for its scheduled Jan. 1 flyby of a mysterious object on the photo voltaic system’s edge, often known as 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule.
New Horizons has been touring towards Ultima Thule since its history-making Pluto flyby in 2015. To avoid wasting on assets, the piano-sized probe has been in hibernation mode since final Dec. 21.
The radio indicators confirming New Horizons’ newest wakeup name took greater than 5 and a half hours to flash on the velocity of sunshine from the photo voltaic system’s frontier to NASA’s Deep Area Community, and onward to mission management at Johns Hopkins College’s Utilized Physics Laboratory in Maryland. The excellent news lastly arrived at 2:12 a.m. ET at present (11:12 p.m. PT Monday).
Right now’s replace quoted mission operations supervisor Alice Bowman as saying the spacecraft is in good well being and working usually, with all methods coming again on-line as anticipated.
This week the mission workforce will acquire navigation monitoring knowledge and begin the months-long technique of programming the probe for the New Yr’s Day flyby.
“Our workforce is already deep into planning and simulations of our upcoming flyby of Ultima Thule and excited that New Horizons is now again in an energetic state to prepared the hen for flyby operations, which is able to start in late August,” mentioned the mission’s principal investigator, Alan Stern of the Southwest Analysis Institute.
Ultima Thule is a billion miles past Pluto and three.8 billion miles from Earth, in a area often known as the Kuiper Belt. It’s considered an icy object a lot smaller than Pluto, and preliminary long-range observations recommend it may encompass a number of objects.
New Horizons may come inside 2,175 miles of Ultima Thule, which might make it the farthest-flung object ever noticed at shut vary. Furthermore, the mission’s scientists say Ultima Thule could effectively have existed within the neighborhood of its present orbit for greater than 4 billion years, which might make it “the most primitive body ever studied by any spacecraft.”
The spacecraft is scheduled to remain energetic till late 2020, with a purpose to transmit all the info from the Ultima Thule flyby and make additional science observations. And there’s already speak about yet one more follow-up mission deep inside the Kuiper Belt.