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NASA bolsters Pluto-bound spacecraft for 2015 visit

Michael Cooney | June 20, 2014
Mission operators at Johns Hopkins University give New Horizons satellite annual update, check-up.

 Some other interesting facts about New Horizons, from NASA:

 New Horizons is nearly 2.7 billion miles (nearly 4.3 billion kilometers) from Earth, speeding away from the sun at 32,950 miles per hour.

At that distance about 29 times the distance between Earth and the sun a radio signal from Earth needs 3 hours, 58 minutes to reach New Horizons.

Since launch on Jan. 19, 2006, New Horizons has covered 90% of a voyage that culminates with a six-month, January-to-July encounter that includes closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

 NASA also said last week it would use the Hubble Space Telescope to explore a small area of the Kuiper Belt is a vast debris field of icy bodies left over from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago where the agency might send New Horizons after it visits Pluto.

 Specifically NASA said it was looking for what's known as a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) for the outbound spacecraft to visit. A KBO has never been seen up close because the belt is so far from the sun, stretching out to a distance of 5 billion miles into a never-before-visited frontier of the solar system.


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