The distant object that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Jan. 1 is now taking shape as a body — or bodies — unlike any visited by a spacecraft to date.
While still more than a year away from a flyby of a distant object in the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, the team running NASA’s New Horizons mission is already looking ahead to future extended missions that could include another flyby.
A senior review of NASA’s planetary science missions has concluded the Dawn spacecraft should remain in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres rather than venture to another asteroid as project officials proposed.
Scientists involved with NASA’s New Horizons mission showed off the latest analysis of data collected during the spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto in July, despite “organizational confusion” at the event that mistakenly prevented attendees from initially sharing the results with the public.
Finding the resources to reach the planets will require refocusing on domestic politics and shifting the American political environment.
A final decision on an extended mission for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, one that would take it past a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO), won’t come for more than a year, although the project will be taking steps in the coming months to prepare for such a flyby.
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern is already contemplating a follow-on mission: A Charon lander that could study the surface Pluto’s largest moon while remotely observing the dwarf planet as an orbiter would.
The first set of images and other data collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its July 14 flyby of Pluto, returned to Earth July 15, are already causing project scientists to reassess their understanding of the dwarf planet and its moons.
Listen to the New Horizons principal investigator discuss his thoughts about sending a lander to the Pluto system.
While New Horizons passed by Pluto this morning, the science team, and the rest of the world, now have to wait the rest of the day to hear back from the spacecraft to find out how well it carried out its flyby.