New Horizons mission extended to Kuiper Belt

Image: New Horizons
Artwork shows New Horizons flying by a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (Credit: NASA)

Almost a year after New Horizons’ unprecedented flyby of Pluto, NASA has given the official go-ahead for the probe to fly past another icy object in the Kuiper Belt in 2019.

At the same time, the space agency decided to keep the Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, rather than sending it out to another asteroid known as Adeona.

The decisions are part of NASA’s process for extending its planetary missions into the 2017-2018 time frame.

New Horizons’ extension means that mission operations will be supported as the piano-sized probe makes its way toward a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69. The object was detected in 2014 during a Hubble Space Telescope search for post-Pluto targets that could be reached by New Horizons. The mission team already has been maneuvering the spacecraft in preparation for a flyby on Jan. 1, 2019.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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