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The PI’s Perspective: On Final Approach to Ultima

20 Dec 2018, 12:13 UTC
The PI’s Perspective: On Final Approach to Ultima
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

In this set of images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, Ultima Thule emerges from behind stars and grows brighter as the spacecraft approaches it. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Laboratory/Henry Throop
The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and on final approach to explore Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will swoop three times closer to “Ultima” than we flew past Pluto!
On Saturday, Dec. 15, the New Horizons hazard watch team concluded its work, having found no moons or rings in the path of New Horizons on its planned closest approach to Ultima. With that information and a unanimous finding by our mission stakeholders team, I informed NASA that we are “go” to fly by Ultima on the trajectory that yields the best science. As a result, New Horizons will approach to within 3,500 kilometers (about 2,200 miles) of Ultima early on New Year’s Day. There is no longer any chance we will divert to a farther flyby distance with consequently lower-resolution images.
Just yesterday, New Horizons conducted another small trajectory correction engine burn to help us home in on Ultima. ...

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