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NASA New Horizons Ultima Thule Flybly



The new horizon of NASA is going to boldly go where previously there was not a single spacecraft.

On New Year's Eve, the New Horizon spacecraft will make the farthest planetary flight.

He will fly past the asteroid Ultima Thule or its official name (486958) 2014 MU69, which is at a distance of more than six billion kilometers in the Kuiper belt.

New Horizons will fly within 3500 kilometers of the asteroid, flying at a speed of more than 50,000 kilometers per hour.

This week, NASA made final amendments to the spacecraft approach, and even the smallest changes were important.

"This burn at a speed of 0.26 meters per second lasted only 27 seconds and was completely carried out by a spacecraft, eliminating about 300 kilometers (180 miles) of the alleged aiming error and speeding our arrival time by about five seconds," said NASA.

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The final sequence of flight instructions was sent at Christmas.

Any other changes should be sent to New Horizons by December 30, since it takes 12 hours to send messages to the spacecraft.

“But we can't burn engines anymore. This is due to the fact that the New Horizons will soon enter the Encounter Mode, which does not allow for the burning of engines, ”NASA said.

The “Meeting” mode means that if problems arise with flight instructions sent from Earth, the on-board software will solve and resolve all problems on its own, instead of calling back to Earth.

New Horizon flight path. Image: NASA

NASA will photograph Ultima, but does not know what it will show.

“We expect Ultima to be the best preserved specimen of a planetary building block ever investigated,” NASA said.

"In essence, Ultima should become a valuable window in the early stages of the formation of planets and what the Solar System looked like more than 4.5 billion years ago."

Photos should return to Earth by late evening on January 1.

New Horizon has already made a stellar journey – in 2015 it was the first spacecraft flying past the dwarf planet Pluto.

Contact the author: jdunne@networkten.com.au


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