The probe is "New Horizons" awake and ready to explore the Kuiper Belt
NASA launched a probe "New Horizons", that he has visited Pluto and it was the first researcher, a few years ago. When this phase of the mission is completed, the robot went to the new distance. Now the "New Horizons" will search for Kuiper Belt Objects. The other day, the probe came out of hibernation and began to prepare for the mission. Kuiper Belt - a ring of icy objects beyond Neptune. After Pluto stayed planet several decades, scientists have realized that it is not a planet, but just large Kuiper Belt object and demoted. The mission of "New Horizons" was the first, when mankind has been able to observe such a distant object so close, but the probe was going to beat his record at the beginning of next year.
"New Horizons" is ideal for the study of other Kuiper belt objects for several reasons. First, the probe is already in place. It took years to spacecraft has reached the outer solar system - "New Horizons" is sent from the Earth back when Pluto was a planet. In addition, the mission to Pluto flyby was just. It took too much fuel to slow the probe, so that he entered the orbit of Pluto, so the entire data collection phase took several hours. Because the spacecraft copes with the scientific part of their work, it was decided to keep it alive for a mission to the Kuiper belt. Now the probe has successfully come out of hibernation. In Hibernate mode it was loaded at the end of 2017; all systems are turned off, the computer is only sending periodic status updates on the Earth. Earlier, NASA confirmed that the probe only worked on these signals, but now he came fully into operation. System status impeccable.
When the "New Horizons" proceeded to the second part of its mission, NASA has not yet know much about the small objects of the Kuiper belt, but has since identified several possible targets. Agency selected object MU69, sometimes called "Ultima Thule". It is either one or two pieces of rock and ice diameter of 32 kilometers. Very soon the scientists will begin preparations for the MU69 study.
Asteroid itself is a 1, 6 kilometers per billion Pluto (Pluto itself is 4, 5 billion miles from Earth). It will be the most distant object ever visited the unit from the Earth. Flyby is scheduled for January 2019.