In just 29 days, NASA’s New Horizon Spacecraft is set to make history again.
After sending us the very first close-up images of Pluto, New Horizons is on its way to visit a strange cosmic body located around a billion miles away from Pluto.
NASA has reported that the spacecraft has performed a short but record-setting course correction maneuver that brings it even closer towards Ultima Thule, a mysterious object located at the ‘edge’ of our solar system, within the so-called Kuiper Belt.
New Horizons continues breaking records while exploring the solar system, and traveling where no other spacecraft has gone.
Mission specialists say that exploration of Ultima Thule will be the farthest-ever flyby of a planetary body, and the recently performed course correction maneuver was the most distant trajectory correction ever made.
New Horizons fired its small thrusters for 105 seconds, adjusting its velocity by just over 1 meter per second, or about 2.2 miles per hour.
At the time course corrections were performed, the spacecraft was located 4.03 billion miles (6.48 billion kilometers) from our planet and about 40 million miles (64 million kilometers) from Ultima.
The Spacecraft is on course to reach its target by January 1st, 2019.
“As the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on its target, Ultima Thule is getting brighter and brighter in the LORRI optical navigation images,” New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said in a statement.
“It’s now standing out much more clearly among the sea of background stars.”
Ultima Thule is located about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto.
New Horizons was launched in January 2006, tasked with returning the first-ever up-close images of Pluto and its moons.
Ultimate Thule’s official name (for now) is (486958) 2014 MU69.
It was discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope on 26 June 2014.
The irregular shaped classical Kuiper belt object is a suspected contact binary or close binary system and measures approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter.
Follow New Horizons journey to Ultima at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Where-is-New-Horizons.php.