TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Last week NASA announced the next potential destination for the New Horizons spacecraft. This is the same spacecraft that sent us all of those great pictures of Pluto in July. According to an article in Earthsky.com, New Horizons' new destination will be a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69. This object is almost a billion miles beyond the orbit of Pluto. The Kuiper Belt is an area of space beyond the planets that is filled with many bodies made primarily of rocks, metals and frozen gases.
2014 MU69 is one of two potential destinations for New Horizons and will be reviewed by NASA before it is officially approved as the next target for the spacecraft.
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said:
"2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO (Kuiper Belt Object), formed where it orbits now, that the Decadel Survey desired us to fly by. Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen."
The plan is for New Horizons to perform a series of maneuvers in the coming months that would direct the spacecraft towards 2014 MU69, which it would likely reach by early 2019.