AP

NASA Spacecraft Hurtles Toward Tiny, Icy World Beyond Pluto

Dec 31, 2018, 9:42 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:16 pm

Principal Investigator Alan Stern (R) and scientist John Grunsfeld discuss the latest image from the New Horizons spacecraft that passed with 7,800 miles of Pluto yesterday, during a NASA news conference July 15, 2015 in Laurel, Maryland. New Horizons will be flying by an icy world beyond Pluto nicknamed Ultima Thule on New Year's Day 2019. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(R)

LAUREL, Md. (AP) — A tiny, icy world a billion miles beyond Pluto is getting a New Year’s Day visitor.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly past a mysterious object nicknamed Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday. It will become the most distant world ever explored by humankind.

The flyby comes 3½ years after New Horizons swung past Pluto and yielded the first close-ups of the dwarf planet.

This time, the drama will unfold 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, so far away it will be 10 hours before flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, know whether the spacecraft survived the close encounter.

Lead scientist Alan Stern said Monday the team has worked years for this moment and now, “it’s happening!!”

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NASA Spacecraft Hurtles Toward Tiny, Icy World Beyond Pluto