NASA's New Horizons Probe 'Phones Home' in Landmark Mission to Ultima Thule

NASA’s New Horizons explorer successfully”Called home” on Tuesday after a Trip to the most distant world explored by Humanity, a Suspended rock at the edge of the solar system that scientists Expect will Discover secrets to its creation.

The nuclear-powered space research has travelled 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers ) to come inside 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers ) of Ultima Thule, an apparently peanut-shaped, 20-mile-long (32-km-long) space rock in the uncharted heart of the Kuiper Belt. The buckle is a ring of icy celestial bodies just outside Neptune’s orbit.

Engineers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland cheered if the spacecraft’s first signs came through the National Aeronautics and Space Agency’s Deep Space Network at 10:28am EST (1528 GMT).

“We now have a healthy spacecraft,” Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman declared.

The spacecraft will ping back more detailed graphics and information in Thule in the forthcoming days, NASA said.

Launched in January 2006, New Horizons embarked on its 4 billion-mile travel toward the solar system’s border to research the dwarf planet Pluto and its five moons.

“Last evening, overnght, the United States spacecraft New Horizons conducted the farthest exploration in the history of humankind, also did so spectacularly,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern told a news conference in the Johns Hopkins centre in Laurel, Maryland.

An image of Thule, delivered overnight and hardly more detailed than previous pictures, deepens the mystery of if Thule is a single rock shaped like a asymmetrical peanut or actually two stones orbiting each other,”blurred together due to their proximity,” Stern explained.

During a 2015 fly-by, the research saw Pluto to be marginally larger than previously believed. In March, it revealed methane-rich dunes on the icy dwarf world’s surface.

Now 1 billion kilometers (1.6 billion kilometers ) beyond Pluto because of its second assignment into the Kuiper Belt, New Horizons will examine the makeup of Ultima Thule’s atmosphere and terrain in a months-long study to find clues about the formation of the solar system and its planets.

Scientists hadn’t discovered Ultima Thule when the probe was started, according to NASA, making the assignment unique in that respect. In 2014, astronomers discovered Thule with the Hubble Space Telescope and the following year selected it for New Horizon’s lengthy mission.

As the probe flies 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers ) above Thule’s surface, scientists hope it will discover the chemical composition of its terrain and atmosphere at what NASA says are the nearest observation of a human body so remote.

“We’re straining the capacities of the spacecraft, and by tomorrow we’ll understand how we did,” Stern told reporters on Monday.

While the mission marks the farthest close experience of an item inside our solar system, NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2, a pair of deep-space probes found in 1977, have reached greater distances on a mission to questionnaire extrasolar bodies. The two probes are still functional.


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