The mission operations team for NASA’s New Horizons probe has awakened the spacecraft from its robotic hibernation, and now it’ll stay awake for its scheduled Jan. 1 flyby of a mysterious object on the solar system’s edge, known as 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule.
New Horizons has been traveling toward Ultima Thule since its history-making Pluto flyby in 2015. To save on resources, the piano-sized probe has been in hibernation mode since last Dec. 21.
The radio signals confirming New Horizons’ latest wakeup call took more than five and a half hours to flash at the speed of light from the solar system’s frontier to NASA’s Deep Space Network, and onward to mission control at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. The good news finally arrived at 2:12 a.m. ET today (11:12 p.m. PT June 4).