NASA’s New Horizons probe has finally come out of the electronic hibernation mode after almost six months. The U.S. space agency had ordered the probe to go to an energy-conserving state in December last year to conserve propellant and reduce wear and tear.
Currently located 3.8 billion miles away from Earth, New Horizons sent radio signals to NASA on late Monday to inform the space agency that it was operational.
New Horizons mission operations manager from the Southwest Research Institute, Alice Bowman, has announced in an official statement that the long-lived spacecraft is operating normally after waking up from the deep sleep mode and that all its systems came back online as expected.
Launched way back in January 2006, New Horizons sent back stunning photos of Pluto and a treasure trove of data about the dwarf planet and its large moon Charon when it flew past the planet on July 14, 2015.
The space probe’s next target is named Ultima Thule. The spacecraft will arrive at its target object in Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called MU69, on January 1, 2019. MU69 was first discovered in 2014 using the Hubble Space Telescope. It lies about a billion miles past Pluto.
According to NASA, the ground controllers will uplink commands to New Horizons over the next two months to prepare the craft for its next encounter. Notably, on reaching Ultima Thule, New Horizons will only have a few hours to take photos of the KBO before it heads further on its way.
The spacecraft will take a long time to send back the pictures and data to Earth, which will help scientists to know more about the mysterious objects orbiting in the distant reaches of our solar system. Scientists are hopeful that the New Horizons spacecraft’s discoveries at Ultima Thule will help better understand the origin of the solar system.