NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a historic New Year’s encounter with an object nicknamed Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt a billion miles beyond Pluto. The probe passed around 3,500 kilometres from the mysterious object at 0533 GMT on New Year’s Day, making it the most distant Solar System body ever explored up close.
Looping back near Earth for the first time since its launch one week ago, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite fired its thrusters early Wednesday to begin boosting its orbit toward the moon for a May 17 gravity assist maneuver that will help catapult the probe into its unique science orbit.
NASA’s new planet-hunting TESS observatory completed its first post-launch thruster firing Saturday, setting up for a big boost Wednesday that will send the spacecraft toward the moon for a flyby next month, the next maneuvers in a two-month process to reach the mission’s final science orbit in mid-June.
Pioneering spacecraft from NASA and the Japanese space agency promise to reveal two unexplored asteroids later this year, officials said Wednesday, beginning surveys that will culminate in daring descents to capture samples for return to Earth, where eager scientists await a hands-on look at the specimens.