NASA’s new Horizon spacecraft awakes from almost five and a half month slumber which is now 3.7 billion miles away from earth. After its journey towards Pluto in 2015, It is now ready for another adventurous expedition which sets a record of most distant planets explored ever. The probe is now heading towards an icy body known as Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule,” according to NASA.
The team of scientist has planned the journey will take place January 1st, 2019. The officials said it took six hours to reach radio signals on earth confirming the horizon spacecraft comes out of hibernation mode. Besides, the probe has been in and out of hibernation mode from April 2017, while in this period, the probe operates on autopilot mode along with few of important instrument and some components running.
Alice Bowman, New Horizon’s mission operations manager, tells The Verge in an interview, “We have a small team and when we put the spacecraft into hibernation, it takes less time for us” to operate New Horizons, We can be spending it on developing the command set for the flyby, which is what we were doing.”
Also, the team incorporates a list of commands in the probe before it gets into the sleeping mode it will help the spacecraft to outlined the journey pathway without getting damage by meteoroid swarm or any extraterrestrial object.
For the time being, the probe is going to explore Ultima Thule, on 13th of August the team will pull up the horizon spin state which stabilizes the probe and then in late August they will use Horizon camera to capture the space rock Ultima Thule located in a cloud of icy bodies beyond Neptune. After August the probe will be in its final phase when horizon hits the target which is nearly 20 to 23 miles in diameter, it is comparatively darker and parallel to bright clusters of stars so it will be hard to see it.
The spacecraft fired its thrusters in October to change the trajectory, and on 22nd December the journey will begin to explore something grand in the universe.