Tuesday , January 19 2021

The latest: NASA spacecraft dashes the world beyond Pluto

LAUREL, Md. – The latest on NASA's New Horizons New Year rendezvous (all times locally):

12:33 am.m.

A NASA spacecraft opens the new year on the farthest world ever explored, one billion miles beyond Pluto.

Flight controllers say that everything looks so good to the New Horizon's flying city of the tiny, icy object at. 12.33 Tuesday, 3 1/2 years after the meeting with Pluto. Confirmation will not come for hours, however, given the great distance. The mysterious goal called Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) is 4 billion kilometers from the ground.

Scientists want New Horizons to observe Ultima Thule, not call home. So they don't know until late in the morning if the spacecraft survived.

With New Horizons on autopilot, Mission Control at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, was empty. Instead, team members and their guests gathered near back-to-back countdowns at midnight and again 33 minutes later.

The Queen's guitarist Brian May, who is also an astrophysicist, joined the team at Johns Hopkins for a midnight premiere of the song he wrote for the big event.

10:50 am.m.

A small, icy world a billion miles beyond Pluto gets a New Year's visitor.

NASA's New Horizon spacecraft is set to fly past a mysterious object named Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) at. 12:33 Tuesday. It will be the farthest world ever explored by mankind.

The airport arrives 3 1/2 years after New Horizons swung past Pluto and gave the first close-ups of the dwarf planet.

This time, the drama will unfold 4 billion miles (6.5 billion miles) from Earth, so far it will be 10 hours before flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, know if the spacecraft survived the close encounter.

Leader researcher Alan Stern said on Monday that the team has worked years for this moment and now, "it happens!"

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