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Thread: Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM)

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    Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM)

    A proposal has been submitted to NASA to extend the New Horizon mission to conduct a flyby of at least one more Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) and last until 2021. The mission to be called Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM).

    http://planetaria.ca/2016/04/new-kem...-mission-2021/

    This new mission has been dubbed “KEM,” or Kuiper Belt Extended Mission. There are many other small bodies in the Kuiper Belt besides Pluto, and mission scientists would love to be able to visit some of them as well. Pluto has already turned out to be more geologically active than anticipated, so what about some of these other ones? Granted, they are all smaller than Pluto, but being able to compare some of them directly with Pluto and its moons would be invaluable.
    Science-Cover-3-18-16

    Cover of the March 18, 2016 edition of the journal Science featuring results from the New Horizons mission so far. Image Credit: AAAS/Science

    The next close flyby would be of a KBO called 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019. This flyby has been discussed before, but now would be part of a larger extended mission plan. 2014 MU69 is much smaller than Pluto, only about 21 to 40 kilometres (13 to 25 miles) across (similar in size to Mars’ two tiny moons), but New Horizons would fly past at a distance of only about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles), four times closer than the Pluto flyby. New Horizons has already completed four necessary course corrections to put it on the right path to 2014 MU69.

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    Approval has yet to be given for the extension of the New Horizon but we already have learned more of one more member of the Kuiper Belt - 1994 JR1

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/...s+News+Feed%29

    Warming up for a possible extended mission as it speeds through deep space, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now twice observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile (145-kilometer) wide Kuiper Belt object (KBO) orbiting more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from the sun. Science team members have used these observations to reveal new facts about this distant remnant of the early solar system.

    Taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on April 7-8 from a distance of about 69 million miles (111 million kilometers), the images shatter New Horizons' own record for the closest-ever views of this KBO in November 2015, when New Horizons detected JR1 from 170 million miles (280 million kilometers) away.

    Simon Porter, a New Horizons science team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said the observations contain several valuable findings. "Combining the November 2015 and April 2016 observations allows us to pinpoint the location of JR1 to within 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles), far better than any small KBO," he said, adding that the more accurate orbit also allows the science team to dispel a theory, suggested several years ago, that JR1 is a quasi-satellite of Pluto.

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    It has since taken pictures of one of Pluto's pals - Quaoar.

    http://www.universetoday.com/130560/...ighbor-quaoar/

    Now more than a year after its historic flyby of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed through the Kuiper Belt. It’s currently on a beeline towards its next target of exploration, a KBO called 2014 MU69. But during its travels, New Horizons spotted another KBO, one of Pluto’s pals, Quaoar.

    When these images were taken (in July 2016), Quaoar was approximately 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from the Sun and 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers) from New Horizons.

    The animated sequence, above, (click the image if it isn’t animating in your browser) shows composite images taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at four different times over July 13-14: “A” on July 13 at 02:00 Universal Time; “B” on July 13 at 04:08 UT; “C” on July 14 at 00:06 UT; and “D” on July 14 at 02:18 UT. The New Horizons team explained that each composite includes 24 individual LORRI images, providing a total exposure time of 239 seconds and making the faint object easier to see.

    Quaoar ( pronounced like “Kwa-war”) is about 690 miles or 1,100 kilometers in diameter, about half the size of Pluto. It was discovered on June 4, 2002 by astronomers Mike Brown and Chad Trujillo from Caltech, and at the time its discovery, it was the largest object found in the Solar System since the discovery of Pluto. Quaoar’s discovery was one of the things that spurred the discussion of whether Pluto should continue to be classified as a planet or not.

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    Alan Stern on what New Horizon has done and what it is hoping to do.

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/...s+News+Feed%29

    As 2016 ends, I can't help but point out an interesting symmetry in where the mission has recently been and where we are going. Exactly two years ago we had just taken New Horizons out of cruise hibernation to begin preparations for the Pluto flyby. And exactly two years from now we will be on final approach to our next flyby, which will culminate with a very close approach to a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) called 2014 MU69 – a billion miles farther out than Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019. Just now, as 2016 ends, we are at the halfway point between those two milestones.

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    More information on 2014 MU69 the new target for New Horizons.

    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017...elt-encounter/

    "Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69 – located approximately 1.6 billion km (1 billion mi) beyond Pluto – was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope on 26 June 2014 during a dedicated survey of the sky and portion of the Kuiper Belt along New Horizons’ post-Pluto trajectory to find potential targets for the craft to encounter after Pluto."

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    New Horizons is getting ready for its next big adventure

    http://www.space.com/35411-beyond-pl...adventure.html

    "Nearly two years after its historic encounter with the dwarf planet Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is getting ready for its next big adventure in the icy outskirts of the solar system.

    Now, the spacecraft is on its way to a small, ancient object located about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. This distant region surrounds the solar system and is filled with trillions of icy rocks that have yet to be explored. The new target was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in June 2014, and it was dubbed 2014 MU69."

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    The objectives of the Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) are laid out in the next article.

    http://www.americaspace.com/?p=98019

    "The journey to 2014 MU69 is part of the Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM), the main objectives of which include:

    Make distant flyby observations of about 20 other KBOs during 2016-2020, determining their shapes, satellite populations, and surface properties – something no other mission or ground-based telescope can.
    Make sensitive searches for rings around a wide variety of KBOs during 2016-2020.
    Conduct a heliospheric transect of the Kuiper Belt, making nearly continuous plasma, dust, and neutral gas observations from 2016 to 2021, when the spacecraft reaches 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.
    Potentially conduct astrophysical cruise science in 2020 and 2021, after the MU69 flyby, if NASA desires.

    With KEM, New Horizons’ mission would be extended until at least 2021."

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    New Horizon went into safe mode due to a command loading error but is now on the way to full recovery.

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/...?page=20170210

    "NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is operating normally after just over 24 hours in a protective "safe mode," the result of a command-loading error that occurred early Thursday. The spacecraft is designed to automatically transition to safe mode under certain anomalous conditions to protect itself from harm. In safe mode, the spacecraft suspends its timeline of activities and keeps its antenna pointed toward Earth to listen for instructions from the Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland."

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    At least all the Pluto data is all safely back.

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    New Horizons is half way to its target. It is still too far to actually take any pictures of its target but the scientist have been taking pictures of the area where they expect the target to be, come 1st January 2019.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne...arget_999.html

    How time and our spacecraft fly - especially when you're making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour. Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto - its storied first target - to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019.
    The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3 - or 8 p.m. ET on April 2 - when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.
    "It's fantastic to have completed half the journey to our next flyby; that flyby will set the record for the most distant world ever explored in the history of civilization," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

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    In the next 6 weeks the New Horizon mission team hope to gleam some critical information on their next target 2014 MU69.

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/...?page=20170525

    "But over the next six weeks, the New Horizons mission team gets an "MU69" preview of sorts – and a chance to gather some critical encounter-planning information – with a rare look at their target object from Earth.

    On June 3, and then again on July 10 and July 17, MU69 will occult – or block the light from – three different stars, one on each date. To observe the June 3 "stellar occultation," more than 50 team members and collaborators are deploying along projected viewing paths in Argentina and South Africa. They'll fix camera-equipped portable telescopes on the occultation star and watch for changes in its light that can tell them much about MU69 itself."

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    And on their 3rd try success . Here is a report by Emily Lakdawalla.

    http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily...star-mu69.html

    After a world-spanning effort, the New Horizons team has successfully observed the tiny target of its future exploration dimming a distant star. Alejandro Soto blogged last month about the challenges of observing a stellar occultation of a very small, incredibly distant object on a (relatively speaking) uncertain orbit. The team reported two weeks ago that the first attempts at observing 2014 MU69 were unsuccessful. But in the third try, on July 17, astronomers in Argentina saw the telltale sign of MU69's presence: a stellar wink.

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    Initial results from the stellar occultation hint that 2014 MU69 might be two objects close together.

    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-hor...re-interesting

    Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets?

    New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

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    New Horizon is hoping to fly about 3,500 kilometers from 2014 MU69.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne...Flyby_999.html

    NASA's New Horizons mission has set the distance for its New Year's Day 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, aiming to come three times closer to MU69 than it famously flew past Pluto in 2015.

    That milestone will mark the farthest planetary encounter in history - some one billion miles (1.5 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto and more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. If all goes as planned, New Horizons will come to within just 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) of MU69 at closest approach, peering down on it from celestial north.

    The alternate plan, to be employed in certain contingency situations such as the discovery of debris near MU69, would take New Horizons within 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers)- still closer than the 7,800-mile (12,500-kilometer) flyby distance to Pluto.

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    An article on why we are interested on learning more on 2014 MU69.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/07/anhe...-in-china.html

    On Jan. 1, 2019 the spacecraft will fly by MU69, and we have little idea what we will find. MU69 is small, less than 50 miles across, and dark like charcoal. There is some evidence it has a strange shape. It may even be two smaller objects in a tight orbit around each other.

    Does MU69 have active geology? We don’t think so because it is so small. Does it have an atmosphere? Probably not, for the same reason. MU69’s importance lies in a different field of science, and that is the study of origins.

    We have strong reasons to believe that MU69 is very, very old. It might be as old as the Earth. But unlike the Earth, whose surface is continually being modified by water and weather, MU69 has not changed since it was formed 4.56 billion years ago. That makes MU69 a treasure chest in the study of origins. MU69 will hold clues to what our solar system was like during the time period when the planets were forming. In fact, it may be an example of the very type of objects that formed the planets.

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    And here is Alan Stern on New Horizon.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Wr..._MU69_999.html

    New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to its next encounter: a flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or "MU69" for short). If you follow our mission, you likely know that flyby will occur on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2019, which is just barely over a year from now!

    As I write this, New Horizons is wrapping up an active period that began when the spacecraft emerged from hibernation mode in September. But soon, on Dec. 21, we'll put the spacecraft back in hibernation, where it will remain until June 4, 2018. After June 4 the spacecraft will stay "awake" until late in 2020, long after the MU69 flyby, when all of the data from that flyby have reached Earth.

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    New Horizons corrects its course.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne..._Belt_999.html

    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft carried out a short, 2.5-minute engine burn on Saturday, Dec. 9 that refined its course toward 2014 MU69, the ancient Kuiper Belt object it will fly by a little more than a year from now.

    Setting a record for the farthest spacecraft course correction to date, the engine burn also adjusted the arrival time at MU69 to optimize flyby science.

    Telemetry confirming that the maneuver went as planned reached the New Horizons mission operations center around 1 p.m. EST at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, via NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) stations in Goldstone, California. The radio signals carrying the data traveled over 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers) and took five hours and 41 minutes to reach Earth at the speed of light.

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    2014 MU69 is small - no more than 20 miles wide - but it may have a small moon!

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/12/1...pacetoday.net/

    "In just over a year, a NASA spacecraft will visit a tiny world at the edge of the solar system. Now that tiny object appears to have an even tinier moon, scientists announced on Tuesday.

    The object, known as 2014 MU69, is small, no more than 20 miles wide, but planetary scientists hope that it will turn out to be an ancient and pristine fragment from the earliest days of the solar system.

    The moon, if it exists, might be about three miles wide, circling at a distance of about 120 miles from MU69, completing an orbit every two to four weeks, estimated Marc W. Buie, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo."

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    Emily Lakdawalla gives some of the highlights from New Horizons team recent meeting.

    http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily...-2014mu69.html

    Somewhere in the dense star field in front of the New Horizons spacecraft, an invisible object is hiding. Throughout 2018, New Horizons will arrow toward 2014 MU69, whiffing past at 05:33 on January 1, 2019 (UTC). The small team of scientists and engineers working on New Horizons' Kuiper-belt extended mission has already laid out its plans for the encounter. Fine details will change as the team updates and improves its knowledge of the size, shape, and location of 2014 MU69 and any satellites, but the outline of the encounter has been fixed.

    The team's most recent meeting took place last week, timed for the 12th anniversary of the spacecraft's launch. Mission management and engineers checked in on spacecraft status, and scientists summarized what they currently know about New Horizons' flyby target and how they plan to study it this year. Following are some of the highlights from the meeting and an overview of the future of the mission. Get yourself a beverage and settle in; this is a long update with lots of news. This post is not one of my "what to expect" articles with a detailed timeline of observation plans and Earth communication dates and simulated images of what we might see on what day. It's not quite time for that yet. I hope to be able to write and post that article in June.

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    New Horizons keeps breaking records as it speeds away from us.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne..._Belt_999.html

    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image - and made history.

    The routine calibration frame of the "Wishing Well" galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on Dec. 5, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth - making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

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    Alan Stern, answers the question, why the Voyagers didn't explore the Kuiper Belt? One answer, The Kuiper Belt was only discovered in 1992!

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Th..._Belt_999.html

    A role of all NASA mission principal investigators is to communicate with the public. I typically give 20 to 30 public New Horizons talks per year, and a question I used to get a lot is whether Voyager could have explored Pluto. I addressed that really interesting question in this column in June 2014, shortly before our Pluto encounter began.

    Now people often ask why the Voyagers didn't explore the Kuiper Belt, since both Voyager 1 and 2 clearly transited this region after passing the giant planets. That's a really good question with a number of facets, so I thought I'd address it in this PI Perspective.

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    New Horizon now have a nick name for their next target - "Ultima Thule" (pronounced ultima thoo-lee").

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne...arget_999.html

    As NASA's New Horizons mission continues exploring the unknown, the mission team has selected a highly appropriate nickname for its next flyby target in the outer reaches of the solar system.

    With substantial public input, the team has chosen "Ultima Thule" (pronounced ultima thoo-lee") for the Kuiper Belt object the New Horizons spacecraft will explore on Jan. 1, 2019. Officially known as 2014 MU69, the object, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will be the most primitive world ever observed by spacecraft - in the farthest planetary encounter in history.

    Thule was a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography. Ultima Thule means "beyond Thule"- beyond the borders of the known world-symbolizing the exploration of the distant Kuiper Belt and Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons is performing, something never before done.

    "MU69 is humanity's next Ultima Thule," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

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    New Horizons is awake and looking forward for its next target

    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2018...ry-mu69-flyby/

    The New Horizons spacecraft has come out of hibernation to begin preparations for its January 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule”. The flyby, set to occur in the early morning of January 1, 2019, will be the second for New Horizons, following its historic 2015 Pluto flyby. It will also be the furthest flyby from Earth ever performed by a spacecraft.

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    We expected the next exciting findings by New Horizon will be its next target but it has managed to surprise us.

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/spa...-solar-system/

    At the edge of the solar system, right before reaching interstellar space, robotic probes are still finding undiscovered mysteries. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which is speeding on from its 2015 encounter with Pluto to study an object in the distant Kuiper Belt, appears to have detected what scientists are calling an interstellar "hydrogen wall."

    The space barrier was detected with New Horizons' instrument Alice, a compact ultraviolet imaging telescope and spectrometer. Alice's main goal on the New Horizons mission was to gather information on the atmospheric conditions of Pluto.

    But scientists are now using Alice to study the edges of the solar system, and the instrument detected an ultraviolet light source in the distance. In a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, New Horizons scientists suggest that the light is scattered by a wall of hydrogen. It is "best explained if the observed ultraviolet light is not only a result of the scattering of sunlight by hydrogen atoms within the solar system, but includes a substantial contribution from a distant source," says the paper.

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