According to Pelletier, according to scientists, the Ultima Thule is about the same size as Washington D.S.
“It is estimated that its diameter is now 30 kilometers,” said Pelletier. “We suspect that it will not be spherical, that he will have some strange shape. There is also a possibility that it will be a double asteroid – two objects that are in contact with each other or are in close contact. ”
What made the task even more difficult for a native of Quebec is that it takes six hours to get a signal from Earth to get to the spacecraft, and another six hours to get back.
“Thus, when we are planning maneuvers for creating links and updates, we must take this into account,” noted Pelletier.
The spacecraft "New Horizons" fell off on January 19, 2006 during a flight to Pluto, and since 2015 it has gone deeper into space. The mission is conducted at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where Pelletier and his team work.
Ultima Thule was first discovered in 2014 using the Hubble Space Telescope, that is, the rock was discovered only after the launch of the New Horizons.
NASA claims that, according to scientists, in the so-called “third zone” of our solar system there are several hundred objects with a diameter of more than 30 kilometers.
“I'm a researcher,” said Pelletier. “I like to go to uncharted places – we are on the edge of the solar system. The Kuiper belt was only discovered in the 1990s. ”
Before the flight on January 1, Pelletier will continue to follow Ultima Thule, hardly giving him time to celebrate his 44th birthday on Friday, December 28.
But his wife and two boys, aged 9 and 12, will fly to Maryland to join him in the coming days.
Pelletier participated in a number of other space missions, including the journey of the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn, and also participated in the landing on Mars Curiosity.