The New Horizons spacecraft will embark on its next mission. If approved the next fly-by target is Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69.
The New Horizons spacecraft is still not done. After the historic Pluto fly-by on July 14, NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons.
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The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.
NASA will conduct a complete review process before making the 2014 MU69 the official next target.
“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.
“2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient Kuiper Belt Object, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.
New Horizons was originally designed to fly beyond the Pluto system and explore additional Kuiper Belt objects.
The spacecraft carries extra hydrazine fuel for another Kuiper Belt fly-by. The power system is designed to operate for many more years.
The New Horizons spacecraft is right now 3 billion miles from Earth. The complete data dump from the Pluto fly-by is just starting.
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NASA says that the spacecraft is in good condition and fully operational.