July 1, 2016: Following its historic first-ever flyby of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons mission has received the green light to fly onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69. The spacecraft’s planned rendezvous with the ancient object—considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system—is Jan. 1, 2019.
“The New Horizons mission to Pluto exceeded our expectations and even today the data from the spacecraft continue to surprise,” said NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green. “We’re excited to continue onward into the dark depths of the outer solar system to a science target that wasn’t even discovered when the spacecraft launched.”
Based upon the 2016 Planetary Mission Senior Review Panel report, NASA this week directed nine extended missions to plan for continued operations through fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Final decisions on mission extensions are contingent on the outcome of the annual budget process.
The Kuiper belt is a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but it is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the Solar System’s formation. Although many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed “ices”), such as methane, ammonia and water. (Source: Wikipedia)
Release Date: July 1, 2016
NASA New Horizons
NASA Solar System Exploration
NASA’s Marshall Center
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Johns Hopkins University
Lunar and Planetary Institute
#NASA #Astronomy #Space #Science #2014MU69 #KuiperBelt #NewHorizons #Pluto #Dwarf #Planet #Spacecraft #JPL
#SolarSystem #MSFC #JohnsHopkins #JHUAPL #APL #STEM
#Education #PlutoFlyby #Exploration #History #SwRI