NASA sends “New Horizons” to the next target

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben)

By In July, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a historic flyby of Pluto, giving humankind its first true encounter with the much-beloved dwarf planet. It was a journey that took nearly a decade, and (despite what you may have heard) it ain’t over yet.

Many think of Pluto as sitting at the outer edge of the solar system, given the fact that it was once our most distant planet. But part of the reason for Pluto’s reassignment as a “dwarf” is the fact that it’s really, really not the last stop before interstellar space. In fact, it’s in the very inside of something called the Kuiper Belt — an asteroid belt full of space objects much more mysterious than Pluto.

Now the New Horizons team has announced a candidate for the probe’s second stop, pending official approval from NASA to extend their mission.