NASA Extends New Horizons Mission [ Current Affairs ]

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has given the green light to the New Horizons mission to push on to investigate a mysterious object deep in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69.

Image shows the 2014 MU69

Image shows the 2014 MU69

Showing image of 2014 MU69

2014 MU69:

  • New Horizons’ extension means that mission operations will be supported as the piano-sized probe makes its way toward a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69.
  • 2014 MU69 is to be 20 to 30 miles wide. It lies a billion miles beyond Pluto, which is 3 billion miles from Earth.
  • It’s an exploration may help to give insights on the building blocks of the solar system.

Other decisions taken by NASA:

  • Dawn spacecraft to remain at the dwarf planet Ceres rather than changing course to the main belt asteroid Adeona.
  • Extension of the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers, Mars Odyssey orbiter, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
  • Extension to NASA’s support for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission.
  • Extension of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN)

Mission:

Image shows the primary and secondary mission

Image shows the primary and secondary mission

Showing image of primary and secondary mission

Mission Status:

  • New Horizons flew 12, 500 km above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015,
  • The flyby study confirmed presence of frozen methane on Pluto’s surface.
  • New Horizons has maneuvered for a flyby of KBO 2014 MU69, After completing flyby mission of Pluto,
  • It expected to take place on January 1, 2019.

About New Horizons

  • New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe.
  • That was launched as a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program.
  • It was launched on January 19, 2006. It is engineered by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
  • Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, said that the New Horizons mission to Pluto exceeded our expectations and even today the data from the spacecraft continue to surprise.

About Kuiper belt

  • Kuiper belt is a region of the solar system outside the planets and extending from the orbit of Neptune.
  • It involves small bodies or fragments from the solar system’s formation.
  • The Kuiper Belt is the icy ring of material beyond the orbit of Neptune, and 5 billion miles (55 astronomical units) far away from the sun.
  • It is far larger — 20 times as wide and 200 times as huge as asteroid belt.
  • Kuiper belt is home to at least three nascent planets — Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
  • Pluto, discovered in 1930 is considered its largest member.

The Kuiper belt objects (KBO) :

  • KBO are made largely of frozen volatiles (termed ‘ices’), such as methane, ammonia and water.

- Published on: July 5, 2016