NASA New Horizons Pluto probe extends to Kuiper Belt

The New Horizons spacecraft has been on an epic journey and has made flybys by Jupiter and Pluto, and NASA has just extended the mission. The spacecraft will now enter the Kuiper Belt and explore an ancient object which is from a period when the planets were being formed in our Solar System.

The official confirmation of the extended mission was obtained and extra funding provided by NASA to send the spacecraft further after its rendezvous with Pluto in 2015. The mission will now be extended till 2021. The spacecraft will now fly to a new target, 2014 MU69 which is an icy body about 20 to 30 miles across and lies in the region which is a vast collection of cold objects in the outermost fringes of the Solar System. The spacecraft will reach the object on January 1st, 2019 and will make a close flyby much akin to its flyby Pluto.

On its way to 2014 MU69, it will also make rendezvous with two dozen other bodies in the outermost edges of the Solar System. It will include Eris which is the second largest dwarf planet and was once considered a prime candidate to be designated a planet with Pluto.

He mission team does not have much work since the correction in the path which will take the craft to its new destination was already completed in October and November 2015. The maneuvers were concluded in expectation that the mission would be extended to go beyond Pluto. NASA completed the procedures earlier because it will require more fuel if it was done later in 2016.

New Horizons created history when it became the first craft in history to visit Pluto and on July 14th, 2015 came within 7,800 miles from the planet. Interestingly when the ship started its journey, Pluto was classified as a planet but was later designated as a dwarf planet.

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