LAUREL, Md. – NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is ready to go for the farthest flyby on the solar system's object, an event undergoing a permanent government shutdown.
New Horizons will make its closest approach to the name of the Ku69 Belt MU69 object, Ultima Thule at 12:33 p.m. East Jan. 1. The nucleus will be 3,500 kilometers from the small body to 6.6 million kilometers to the Earth, at a speed of 14 kilometers per second.
The drivers started the "knowledge update" of New Horizons at the beginning of December 30, after changing the time of events by two seconds, improving the improvement of the Ultima Thuli positioning. It's possible that the latest update before the flyby, said Alice Bowman, director of New Horizons Mission Operations, at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins University, on December 30.
The New Horizons itself is in good condition, without any hassle that hinders the flyby. "The spacecraft is healthy," he said. When the spatial update confirms that it has been applied correctly, "we will probably take a sigh of relief." Bowman tweeted on December 30th. The update was successfully installed on spacecraft.
The scientists related to the mission were eagerly awaited about the science they expected from New Horizons, but the flyby itself was not nervous. "My peace of mind reflects a lot in the way that we expect our role to work. There's nothing significant about anomalies," said Jeff Moore, NASA's planetary scientist, Ames Research Center, head of the New Horizons Science team dedicated to research in geology and geophysics. "The new knowledge updates are in a very good position to get beautiful photos."
The main challenge to face flyby days is not technical, but bureaucratic. When the mandate of the government ended, a partial government began on December 22, including NASA, to publish a key that was introduced in the months before the plans developed. The NASA closure plan said the agencies' website and social networks will not be closed, and NASA TV will not be offline.
However, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on December 27 NASA's television and social media accounts continue throughout the operation before the work contract is "pre-financed". APL also made plans on satellite-based sessions on its social networks and website.
Alan Stern, the chief investigator of New Horizons, said on Tuesday, December 30, NASA officials were not planning to go ahead with the flight due to the shutdown, no official capabilities such as media or expressions could not be found. "It's basically beyond us," said officials to welcome private citizens to meet flyby events.
NASA officials have exempted some members of science exceptions, because the personnel of this body cause about 95%, "it's a critical operation," Stern said.
Among them, Moore said, and another scientist Ames, Dale Cruikshank, was asked to "bind the bureaucracy," except for the license and to obtain a permit to travel to APL. "Everyone gave us a day of filling-up and system-facing," he said.
Moore and other scientists are expected to receive seven gigabytes of New Horizons when they collect images, sperm and particulate data from Ultima Thule. While some images and other data will return to the next days of the flyby, it will take up space for about 20 months to transmit all the data collected for the remote distance of the Earth.
New Horizons must be in contact with the Earth on the flyby. 31. Transmit some data that will be available on the 31st of December. Approximate approach after 15 minutes of telemetry, Bowman described it as "data security and security data explosion", including the amount of data collected. That is expected to arrive on Earth 10:29 a.m., East Jan. 1. Data collected during the flyby spacecraft will begin again on January 1.
Ultima Thule is named after the "classic cold" Kuiper Belt family. The name "cold" is not about its temperature, but the orbit has a low tendency and eccentricity, said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist, who did not change or change the solar system 4 million years ago.
"Surely the most important object found by a spacecraft," said Ultima Thule. "The relic of the solar system is as long as possible in these ranges".
"Kuiper is just one of the scientists in the ring, and it's about the formation of our solar system among the best samples of the time," said Stern. "There is nothing like this from the scientific point of view".
In addition to the excitement of the cloud for scientists, because Ultima Thule knows little about it, it was only found in 2014 to achieve new goals after the Adults came to New Horizons in July 2015 after the Flying Plutoon. The object of more than 30 kilometers has been seen only with the Hubble Space Telescope and New Horizons.
"We do not know about one of the MU69," said Stern. "We never, in the history of space flows, go towards a lesser-known goal".
These uncertainties are the rotational period of the object. Scientists hope Ultima Thule determines how he accelerates around his or her axis, which is known as lightcurve to achieve the glittering pattern of the object over time. However, until now, the observations of the object showed us flat lights, and the rotation period was difficult.
Weaver said that "some tips" mean that the spacecraft rotates quickly in a few hours. "He suggests that the crumb weakened quickly rotates, but whether or not the team went up or down," he said.
Weaver said the most obvious explanation for a lack of Lightcurve is that New Horizons seeks directly to the Ultima Thule rotation axis, which looks the same part of the object all the time.
However, there are alternative explanations. When Marc Buie, who saw the stellar incidents in July 2017 and July 2018 in 2018, when he faced a star of Ultima Thule, revealed the unusual appearance of the object with a clear light. Although these hidden objects may have two objects, the object with three lobes may also cause flat light.
He has given enough time to develop the models, Buiano said that it was likely that Ultima Thule would shape the light below the light. But the spacecraft will soon return its answers, he added. "Why not wait to take photos?"