Now more than two years outbound from its historic encounter with Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on target for a fleeting flyby less than 2,200 miles from 2014 MU69, an icy, city-sized world set to become the most distant object ever visited, just after midnight Jan. 1, 2019, on the U.S. East Coast. Scientists now say the probe may be able to pursue another destination some time in the 2020s.
A NASA spacecraft being readied for launch in 2018 will make repeated trips through the sun’s outer atmosphere, passing within 4 million miles of the star’s blazing surface at more than 430,000 mph to shed light on what powers the sun’s high-temperature corona, the origins of the solar wind and the causes of potentially catastrophic solar storms.
Scientists planning the the next phase of NASA’s New Horizons mission, a robotic craft that completed the first exploration of Pluto in 2015, are going into the flyby of a frozen, faraway city-sized clump of rock on New Year’s Day 2019 armed with little knowledge of the target lurking around 4 billion miles from Earth.
NASA managers formally approved the New Horizons mission another speedy encounter with an object at the frontier of the solar system, but denied a request from scientists to redirect the Dawn spacecraft to visit a third destination in the asteroid belt, opting to keep it in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, officials said Friday.