January 2, 2020 – Secure to say, 2020 got here in additional quietly for a lot of members of the New Horizons mission staff than did 2019.
A 12 months in the past, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew previous the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (now often called Arrokoth) within the early hours of New 12 months’s Day, ushering in an period of exploration of the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a area of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the photo voltaic system. That flyby was each the primary ever close-up exploration of a Kuiper Belt object and probably the most distant exploration of any object in house — greater than a billion miles past Pluto, which New Horizons explored in 2015.
On the Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, throughout what the Washington Submit known as the “nerdiest New 12 months’s get together within the photo voltaic system,” taking part scientist, astrophysicist and legendary Queen guitarist Brian Could rang in 2019 with a track impressed by New Horizons. Mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern led a crowd of staff members, household and mates within the countdown to the 12:33 a.m. flyby of the article, then identified by its nickname, Ultima Thule.
Indicators confirming the spacecraft was wholesome and had stuffed its digital recorders with science information on MU69 reached the mission operations middle at APL at 10:29 a.m. EST.
“Congratulations to NASA’s New Horizons staff, Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Analysis Institute for making historical past but once more. Along with being the primary to discover Pluto, at the moment New Horizons flew by probably the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft and have become the primary to straight discover an object that holds remnants from the start of our photo voltaic system,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated on the time. “That is what management in house exploration is all about.”
Within the following months, New Horizons transmitted dozens of knowledge units to Earth, with the staff writing new chapters within the story of Arrokoth and the outer photo voltaic system. And there’s extra to return in 2020.
“The flyby of Arrokoth was a landmark occasion in house exploration and for the primary time revealed simply how the constructing blocks of planets are made,” stated Stern, of the Southwest Analysis Institute. “Information from that flyby have been coming again to Earth all of 2019 and can proceed to take action throughout all of 2020 and a part of 2021. The discoveries these information maintain have actually simply begun!”