SPACE — NASA’s New Horizons mission is just two years away from its next target, a small Kuiper Belt object that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.
New Horizons is scheduled to fly by 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, making it the most distant object humans have ever explored. 2014 MU69 measures between 25 km to 45 km across.
Scientists are not sure how bright the object is. Its albedo reading, the measure of how much light reflects from a surface, may be 0.04 or slightly brighter. By comparison, Pluto has an albedo reading between 0.49 to 0.66, while Mars has a reading of 0.15.
New Horizons is currently speeding at a velocity of 14.32 km per second relative to the sun. It is almost halfway between Pluto and its next target, a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69. New Horizons was designed to fly well past Pluto. It carries extra hydrazine fuel for a Kuiper Belt object flyby and its communications system is designed to work from far beyond Pluto.