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What you need to know about the new NASA New Horizons ship



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NASA will make history on New Year's day, with an exploration of the Earth's farthest object ever done.

More than a billion kilometers beyond Pluto, the New Horizons ship is on track to meet with a spatial object known as Ultima Thule, as it passes through the Kuiper belt region in the external solar system.

Here's what you need to know about the mission when New Horizons approaches your goal:

What are the New Horizons?

Part of the New Frontiers project of NASA, the New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006.

The craft was sent with the aim of exploring Pluto, considered a planet at that time and the only uncharted solar system.

After arriving and exploring the dwarf planet and its moon, Charon, in 2015, New Horizons took on a secondary task of exploring the Kuiper belt, which will be completed during the next decade.

Ultima Thule will be the first Kuiper belt object that you will find New Horizons, with several other objects planned for future observation.

Where is Ultima Thule?

(486958) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, is an object found in the Kuiper belt for the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

Estimated to have a diameter of 30 kilometers, the same size as Washington DC, the object is more than 6,500 million kilometers from Earth.

There are discrepancies in which scientists consider it possible to be Ultima Thule, with estimates based on the distance and brightness that give it an elongated shape, while lightweight measurements are consistent with those observed from a spherical body.

Experts say that Thule is a relic preserved 4.5 million years ago, and could give a valuable insight into the materials that were present at the beginning of our solar system.

When will the spacecraft be made?

Focus is scheduled for 12:33 a.m. eastern standard time

The event will be covered live on NASA TV and at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

NASA will not know if New Horizons survived the flight for hours after its planned passage, due to the distance it will have to travel.

If everything is planned, the first images of Ultima Thule will probably be released to the world on Tuesday.

Who is driving?

The Canadian Frederic Pelletier is the main navigator of the spacecraft, leading a team of eight based in Johns Hopkins.

New Horizons will fly for Ultima Thule at a distance of 3,500 kilometers, moving at a speed of 50,000 kilometers per hour.

What makes the task even harder is that it takes six hours to make the Earth signals arrive at the boat and another six hours to return.

"When we plan maneuvers to make elevators and upgrades, we must keep that in mind," Pelletier said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

With files from the Canadian press

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