BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After making the first ever fly-by of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft is getting ready for an encore.
It’s currently plunging through the oldest, coldest part of the solar system, and it’s sending back photos.
“Those are the farthest out images ever taken,” says Dr. Andy Cheng, with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.
The lab built and controls New Horizons, and released two photos of objects in the Kuiper belt, where the craft has been traveling since its historic fly-by of Pluto in 2015. The spacecraft was first launched in 2006.
“It’s well beyond the orbit of Pluto,” Cheng says. “It’s about 41 astronomical units. It’s a little under 4 billion miles.”
The two objects that were photographed are still a long way from the spacecraft, which is closing on on a third different object.
The plan is a fly-by even closer than the one of Pluto, revealing never before seen details of the unknown.
Flight controllers at the lab will awaken the spacecraft in June (it’s currently in electronic hibernation) and start getting it ready for the flyby. The date of the rendezvous is on New Year’s Day, according to Cheng.
“We’ll have a very exciting holiday,” Cheng says.