If you are planning to usher in the New Year in a slightly different way on 31st might, get ready to watch the NASA rocket that would be flying past the tiny 2014 MU69 space rock which is orbiting1 billion miles beyond Pluto and 4.1 billion miles from Earth.
NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft that flew past Pluto in 2015 would now be flying past another object. The object is none other than the mysterious object or space rock that has been titled Ultima Thule. NASA claimed that never before they have encountered such kind of object.
Similar to the Pluto fly-past, the mission team of the New Horizon spacecraft has already assembled at John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. They will supervise the spacecraft from the facility’s mission operations center.
As the US is presently in the middle of a partial government closedown, there was some confusion over how the public could keep tab of this grand event. NASA is one of the federal agencies hit by the closure.
People feared that NASA won’t be able to broadcast footage of the events on its dedicated channel, NASA TV, or provide an update on its social media platforms. However, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared on Twitter that people can witness event on NASA TV. The space agency would also provide an update to the public about the mission on its social media page. If everything goes as per plan, NASA TV’s live stream should come online for both the fly-past and also for the press conference.
As the closure has not affected John Hopkins, it plans to telecast the live events on its YouTube page. The University would also provide links on their website so that viewers can watch the event.
About the timeline of the fly-past, things would kick-off on 31st December, with a press briefing at 2PM ET. Next, around the time of the fly-past at 12:33AM ET on 1st January, there would be some celebrations in the mission’s operations center to honor the event.
As radio communication from the spacecraft would be taking around six hours to reach Earth, and New Horizons won’t send a signal back to Earth till a few hours after it ventures past the rock, Ultima Thule. Hence, between 9:45 and 10:45AM ET, the mission team would be getting the signal of the mission becoming a success.
The distance between the New Horizon spacecraft and Ultima Thule, the mysterious space rock would be 3500 kilometers. In other words, when New Horizons would be flying past the Ultima Thule, from that distance, the space rock might seem to be very big. It might appear just like the size of a full Moon that one gets to see from Earth.