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Dec 10

New Horizons approaches Uranus

Source: NASA/John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

10 years ago, on Dec. 19, 2000, NASA announced that it would conduct a competition for a PI-led mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.


The New Horizons science team at Kennedy Space Center in November 2005, two months before launch.
Image credit: John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Within a week of NASA's announcement, some scientists from NASA and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory formed a mission team, which ultimately became known as New Horizons mission that would develop the probe that has the same name.

As we enter the 2010 holiday season, New Horizons is rapidly approaching the orbit of Uranus, which it will cross on March 18, 2011 - the same day the MESSENGER mission enters orbit about Mercury.


New Horizons is rapidly approaching the orbit of Uranus.
Image credit: John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The mission still has  more than 4 years to go to get to Pluto, and another nine months after that to get all the data back on Earth. Neptune orbit crossing will happen in August 2014. And then - in 2015 - the first encounter of New Horizons with the Pluto system, visiting Pluto, Charon, Nix and Hydra, and very likely after that a KBO or two as well.(read more)

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