The New Horizons, the NASA space probe launched in January 2006, was "awakened" by the control center after a long hibernation period to prepare it for a meeting with a small object beyond Pluto, in the Kuiper Belt - a giant donut that surrounds the Solar System, composed of thousands and thousands of small bodies similar to small planets and comets.
The probe had passed near Pluto in 2015, then it continued its journey and last year it was placed in a state called hibernation, when almost all the instruments on board were switched off to save energy. After 165 days off, just over 6 billion kilometers from Earth, the probe was awakened. The radio signals sent to the operations center, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (Maryland), and which take 5 hours and 40 minutes to reach us, confirm that everything on board works perfectly.Record images from the Kuiper Belt 2014 MU69, the destination of New Horizons, in a series of images taken by the Hubble space telescope: from Earth it is not possible to identify any morphological features. | Nasa / Hubble
In the coming days the mission leaders will send a series of messages to New Horizons' on-board computers to begin preparations for the close flyover of the 2014 MU69 object.
The preparation will last about two months: it is expected that the first remote observations can be started in August and, thanks to these, it will be possible to perfect the probe's course to bring it as close as possible to the planet. The New Horizons is located just over 260 million kilometers from the planet and every day it is approaching about 1, 220, 000 kilometers.The long road of the New Horizons. | Nasa New Horizons: the fastest spaceship ever built by man
2014 MU69 is located about 1.6 billion kilometers from Pluto: the control center intends to reach the New Horizons on January 1st 2019. It will be the first time that a probe will fly over an object from the Solar System of this type and of which nothing is known.