Stern and other members of the New Horizons team will be at APL next New Year’s because that date marks the next major milestone for the mission: the flyby of a Kuiper Belt object known only, for now, as 2014 MU69. (The object will get an unofficial “nickname” in the coming months, the result of a naming contest run by NASA and the mission, although a formal name sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union may not come until after the flyby.)

    The flyby is the highlight of a five-year extended mission approved by NASA in 2016 after New Horizons completed its primary mission, a flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto, in 2015. “We’re on an extended mission through 2021 to explore the Kuiper Belt in a whole host of ways,” Stern said, including telescopic observations of dozens of objects the spacecraft will pass at a distance.

posted by kleinbl00: 20 days ago