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NASA’s New Horizon Set Out To Make History

New Horizons, which is the size of a baby grand piano and part of an $800 million mission, will collect data for four hours after the flyby.

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Pluto, NASA, new horizons
New Horizons team members are seen during a press conference prior to the flyby of Ultima Thule by the New Horizons spacecraft, Dec. 31, 2018, at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. VOA

Just 33 minutes into the New Year, NASA’s New Horizons probe will make space exploration history, flying by the most distant body ever explored.

The probe, launched in January 2006, will fly within 3,540 kilometers of 2014 MU69, dubbed Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase meaning beyond the known world.

In 2015, New Horizons flew by Pluto, then the farthest object visited by a spacecraft from Earth. This time the encounter will take place 1.6 billion kilometers past Pluto, some 6.5 billion kilometers from Earth.

Pluto, NASA, new horizons
This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. NASA launched the probe in 2006; it’s about the size of a baby grand piano. VOA

“Today is the day we explore worlds farther than ever in history!! EVER,” tweeted the project’s lead scientist, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.

He called it an auspicious beginning to 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s footsteps on the moon in July 1969.

Ultima Thule was discovered in June 2014 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which was trying to find new targets for New Horizons in the Kuiper Belt, the third region of the solar system.

Also Read:NASA Likely to Continue Flying its Astronauts on The Russian Soyuz

New Horizons, which is the size of a baby grand piano and part of an $800 million mission, will collect data for four hours after the flyby. After that the probe will return toward Earth to transmit a signal announcing its progress.

“I can’t promise you success. We are straining the capabilities of this spacecraft,” Stern said at a news conference Monday. “By tomorrow, we’ll know how we did. So stay tuned. There are no second chances for New Horizons.” (VOA)

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China on Consecutive Missions To Moon and Mars

The 2011 Wolf Amendment, motivated by security concerns, bans NASA scientists from working with Chinese citizens affiliated to a Chinese state enterprise or entity

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NASA, Moon
China plans another Moon mission in 2019, targets Mars in 2020: Report

Riding on its success of landing a rover on the far side of the Moon earlier in January, China’s space agency is planning to launch another mission to the Moon by the end of 2019 and a mission to Mars as early as 2020, the media reported.

The plans underscore China’s ambitions in space at a time when the US is curtailing NASA’s budget and increasingly handing over space exploration to commercial adventurers, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The China National Space Administration is working to send a probe to the Red Planet, said Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the agency.

“China will carry out its first-ever exploration mission to Mars around 2020,” he said.

On January 3, China’s robotic spacecraft Chang’e-4 landed on the far side of the moon, a first in the human history of space exploration.

The 1.3-tonne lander, which made a soft landing on the Moon, put potato seeds and silkworm eggs housed in a chamber, and fed natural light and nutrition, on the Moon.

The space agency plans to launch a Chang’e-5 mission at the end of 2019 with the goal of collecting samples from the near side of the moon, Wu said. They would be the first samples retrieved since 1976.

China is also building its own space station, called Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, which is expected to be operational in 2022. But the agency is still deciding whether to send astronauts to the Moon, Wu said.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
China plans to land Mars in 2020 VOA

It also deployed a small rover called Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, to explore the surrounding lunar terrain, which is believed to be older than that on the near side.

“All these are first-time breakthroughs for humankind,” Wu said, adding “they are bound to make significant impacts on both China and the world.”

Meanwhile, China also said it has shared data with NASA about the Chang’e-4 lunar mission.

That claim could not be immediately substantiated, but it could raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill because NASA and the Chinese agency are prohibited from cooperating without congressional approval, the report said.

Also Read: China Exchanged Data With NASA On Its Recent Mission To Moon

The 2011 Wolf Amendment, motivated by security concerns, bans NASA scientists from working with Chinese citizens affiliated to a Chinese state enterprise or entity.

“Expanded international cooperation is the wish of all scientists,” Wu said. “It takes joining of forces among the world’s big space powers to really make a difference in human space exploration.” (IANS)