Following a 157-day long hibernation, New Horizons has been placed in “active” mode and will continue its Kuiper Belt Cruise.
Alice Bowman, Mission Operations Manager for New Horizons at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL) in Laurel, Maryland confirmed the status of the spacecraft stating, “It’s another working science cruise through the Kuiper Belt for New Horizons.”
New Horizons 5-month slumber is the first of two planned hibernation periods before it’s observational flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. The spacecraft will remain operational until December 22, 2017, before going into hibernation again. It will then remain in hibernation until June 4, 2018, when it will begin preparations for its MU69 approach.
In a statement on the JHUAPL website, officials stated that New Horizons’ three month active period would be used to, “…train its instruments on numerous distant KBOs, making long-distance observations with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), while also continuously measuring the Kuiper Belt’s radiation, dust, and gas environment.” Calibration and testing of the spacecraft’s instruments will be done in preparation of its MU69 approach next year.
The $700 million New Horizons spacecraft’s wakeup call came with the spacecraft at 5.82 billion kilometers from Earth. The spacecraft then repositioned and sent a systems check via a radio signal that reached Earth over 5 hours later.
Image and Video Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI