Last fall the device “New Horizons” finished shipment of all information collected during flight of Pluto. Now it is waited by a meeting with an object of the Kuiper belt 2014 MU69 which flight the station will make in two years — on New Year’s Eve 2019. But in what the device will be engaged before? The mission manager Alan Stern in brief answered this question in the blog of NASA.
So, in January, 2017 “The new horizons” will make observations of a poludyuzhina of objects of the Kuiper belt. Of course, they are at distance of hundreds of millions of kilometers from the station so it is possible not to wait for beautiful photos. But all the same, from the current line item “The new horizons” will be able to collect about them much more data, than any land or space telescope.
Also the device will collect data on the environment surrounding it. On its board there are devices allowing to make the analysis of particles of interplanetary dust and gas. Considering that “The new horizons” only the fifth terrestrial device which crossed an orbit of Pluto, and its devices are far more perfect than tools of “Voyagers” and “Pioneers”, these data are of great interest to astronomers.
In February, 2017 the device, most likely, will begin small correction of a rate which will bring closer its trajectory to 2014 MU69. In March when “The new horizons” send all data collected for January-February and will finish maneuver, the station for the first time since 2014 will be included into the mode of hibernation and will stay in it till September, 2017. Since September, 2017 “The new horizons” will continue observations of distant objects of the Kuiper belt, and the scientific team will prepare for a meeting with 2014 MU69. The device will begin to carry out the program for studying of this object in July, 2018.
After flight 2014 MU69 and shipments of all information, at “The new horizons” still will be at least several years during which the device will be capable to carry out scientific ablyudeniye. What the station the last years now difficult will be engaged in to tell. In the theory, it still has some fuel reserve for corrections of a rate, but of course it is improbable that within its reach there will be one more object of the Kuiper belt. On extreme, I didn’t hear about that the scientific team of a mission gave a request for reuse of Hubble for searches of the new purposes. And considering characteristics of its riteg and the current speed, “The new horizons” shan’t hold on to border of interstellar space. So most likely in the last years of life the station will be used for collection of data on surrounding space. Perhaps, in NASA will also want to seize the rare opportunity and to make a remake of the well-known photo Pale Blue Dot. Personally I would be not against.