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New target selected for distant Pluto probe


Posted on Monday, 31 August, 2015 | Comment icon 15 comments

New Horizons will take over 3 years to reach its next target. Image Credit: NASA
NASA's New Horizons probe might have finished with Pluto but its mission is not over by a long shot.
New Horizons entered the record books earlier this year by becoming the first spacecraft ever to visit Pluto when it passed within 12,500km of the dwarf planet's surface back in July.

Now it has a new mission that will take it even deeper in to the Kuiper Belt in the hope of learning more about how our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. It's target - a 45km-wide comet-like object known as 2014 MU69 which is situated over 6.5 billion kilometers beyond the orbit of Pluto.

"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 NASA's John Grunsfeld.

The probe is believed to be carrying enough fuel to keep it going for many more years with scientists estimating that it could keep going until the late 2020s or even in to the 2030s.

If all goes well then it will reach its next destination at the beginning of January 2019.

Source: BBC News | Comments (15)

Tags: Pluto, New Horizons

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 31 August, 2015, 14:01
Where is the huge expense generated? Just curious. The scientists and engineers that control and monitor the spacecraft have to be paid. The craft will need to be monitored using the Deep Space Network (DSM), that expense will need to come from New Horizons budget. Once the spacecraft makes it's fly-by of 2014 MU69 there will be data collected that will take years to analyse, that has to be paid for. The cost of running a deep space probe is not negligible and has to come from NASA's limited budget. Moreover the US Congress decides how much of NASA's budget goes into various areas, hence there... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by DieChecker on 31 August, 2015, 19:52
I'm looking forward to any future pictures of 2014MU69.
Comment icon #8 Posted by BeastieRunner on 31 August, 2015, 23:04
I hope the journey gets to continue!
Comment icon #9 Posted by paperdyer on 1 September, 2015, 18:44
It's a shame that a great subject like this gets such a low number of comments while comments about slower melting ice cream abound. Hopefully a foundation or philanthropist will pony-up the necessary money to keep the project alive.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 1 September, 2015, 19:03
Hopefully a foundation or philanthropist will pony-up the necessary money to keep the project alive. That's not really an option. It's not just about money but about resources. NASA (and maybe ESA) are the only people that can communicate with a space probe at that distance. The Deep Space Network that communicates with New Horizons only has a finite amount of time it can spend with each probe. No amount of money will change that within the amount of time available before the fly by. Although I warned Merc about counting his chickens, it is highly unlikely that New Horizons won't get the missi... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by DieChecker on 1 September, 2015, 20:57
What would be the expense of building another Deep Space Network communication system?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 1 September, 2015, 21:03
What would be the expense of building another Deep Space Network communication system? Hundreds of millions, maybe billions but irrelevant. It couldn't be done in time. Besides what would be the point? Whilst it is true that time on the DSN is limited, massive over capacity would be a ridiculous waste of money.
Comment icon #13 Posted by badeskov on 1 September, 2015, 23:42
Hundreds of millions, maybe billions but irrelevant. It couldn't be done in time. Besides what would be the point? Whilst it is true that time on the DSN is limited, massive over capacity would be a ridiculous waste of money. Hi Waspie, I very (!!) rarely disagree with you, but here I may have a differing opinion. I see ideas and plans for an increased amount of space exploration, so while not applicable to present missions I could easily see the deep space network being augmented to facilitate not only more missions, but also more complex missions where more time was required for each craft/p... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 1 September, 2015, 23:56
I see ideas and plans for an increased amount of space exploration, so while not applicable to present missions I could easily see the deep space network being augmented to facilitate not only more missions, but also more complex missions where more time was required for each craft/probe. I absolutely agree, the DSN is evolving and expanding all the time, it is a far more capable system now than when first inaugurated. However you have to take into account what paperdryer was suggesting, which was a private individual or a foundation funding New Horizons. My reply to DieChecker was made in the... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Sundew on 2 September, 2015, 20:49
The scientists and engineers that control and monitor the spacecraft have to be paid. The craft will need to be monitored using the Deep Space Network (DSM), that expense will need to come from New Horizons budget. Once the spacecraft makes it's fly-by of 2014 MU69 there will be data collected that will take years to analyse, that has to be paid for. The cost of running a deep space probe is not negligible and has to come from NASA's limited budget. Moreover the US Congress decides how much of NASA's budget goes into various areas, hence there will be a set budget for deep space robotic explor... [More]


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