The New Horizons Mission – An Overview

An artist’s illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

The New Horizons mission is a scientific investigation that is designed to explore the outer reaches of the solar system. The mission has two main objectives.

Its first objective is to provide the first detailed examination of Pluto and its moons. Instruments aboard the New Horizons spacecraft will provide information about the surface properties, geology, interior composition, and atmosphere of these bodies.

The mission will then extend beyond Pluto to a region of small, icy bodies collectively known as the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) are thought to be the source of short-period comet nuclei.

An overview of the New Horizons mission.

The second objective of the New Horizons mission is to closely examine at least one KBO - nicknamed Ultima Thule. NASA is eager to study KBOs because they are over 4 billion years old and may provide valuable information about the origin of the solar system.

The New Horizons mission is the first mission in NASA’s New Horizons Program. The goal of the New Horizons Program is "to explore the solar system with frequent, medium-class, scientifically focused missions."

A Famous KBO

The nucleus of Halley’s comet was photographed by the Giotto space probe in 1986. This was the first image ever taken of a comet’s nucleus.

Halley’s Comet is the most famous comet believed to have originated in the Kuiper Belt. It has a period of 76 years and last appeared in 1986. Halley’s Comet is named after English astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742) who first predicted its periodic nature in 1705.

To access the full features of Pluto Safari please download the FREE app for iOS from the Apple App Store or Pluto Safari: New Horizons for Android from Google Play.

Alternatively, if you have SkySafari or Pluto Safari installed you could download the simulation settings file here.