Operators of the New Horizons spacecraft—the mission that gave us the image of Pluto’s heart last year (and captured hearts the world over)—want to take the mission farther…if NASA will approve it.
The mission garnered public attention in 2015 when the team released an adorable photo of Pluto. Laurie Cantillo, media liaison in the Office of Communications at NASA, wrote in her blog, “after it was revealed that Pluto had a ‘heart,’ the story went mainstream, attracting global attention. In the summer of 2015, the world ‘hearted’ Pluto!”
Of course, most adored Pluto before the heart, but now, the team is looking to go even farther.
Recently, we spoke with Alan Stern, New Horizons’ Principal Investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), at the 2016 Edison Awards, and he briefly discussed the next stage of the mission, saying that, “For New Horizons, the next big thing is that we’re going to do another fly-by, if NASA approves. It will be in January of 2019, and about a billion miles past Pluto.”
He summed the purpose simply, asserting, “we’re going to continue exploring.”
He goes on to say that, “New Horizons was originally designed to fly beyond the Pluto system and explore additional Kuiper Belt objects. The spacecraft carries extra hydrazine fuel for a KBO flyby; its communications system is designed to work from far beyond Pluto; its power system is designed to operate for many more years; and its scientific instruments were designed to operate in light levels much lower than it will experience during the 2014 MU69 flyby.”
So, fingers crossed, but things are looking pretty optimistic.