June 11, 2018 — The New Horizons space probe has awoken from a six-month hibernation in preparation for its New Year’s flyby at the edge of our solar system – the farthest planetary encounter ever made. The spacecraft went into hibernation mode on December 21st to preserve resources and remained in that state, travelling on autopilot, until June 5th where it emerged from its sleep as programmed. It will remain active until the end of 2020, once it has transmitted the data from this mission back to Earth.
Now that all its systems are once again fully operational, New Horizons is preparing for its New Year’s visit to the farthest place ever explored by man. The spacecraft will rendezvous with a small, icy object in the Kuiper Belt nicknamed Ultima Thule. Ultima Thule, whose official name is 2014 MU69, is approximately one billion miles from Pluto, where New Horizons performed its historic flyby study in 2015. Even while in hibernation mode, the spacecraft has been moving through the Kuiper Belt since its Pluto flyby and is travelling 760,200 miles closer each day to Ultima. Beginning in August, New Horizons will begin making distance observations of Ultima which will help determine the course it will take for its flyby on January 1st.
New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006 and has since travelled 3.7 billion miles from Earth. In addition to its Pluto and Kuiper Belt mission, it also conducted long-distance observations of Jupiter’s moon Callirrhoe during a flyby in 2007.
VPT is proud to have parts on board New Horizons and we look forward to following it on its historic mission to the end of the Kuiper Belt and beyond. For more information about New Horizons and its missions, please visit its official site.