The space probe is currently located more than 4 billion miles from Earth. The signal confirmed to the New Horizons team that the spacecraft’s subsystems were working properly, and that the vehicle had collected the amount of data that the engineers expected to get.The observed object, nicknamed Ultima Thule, is the most distant- and most primitive – object that’s ever been visited by humanity. “We have a healthy spacecraft,” Alice Bowman, the mission operations manager for the New Horizons mission, said after confirming the feat. “We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby.” New Horizons tried to gather as much information as it could about the rock. Equipped with seven science instruments, the spacecraft snapped pictures, mapped the object’s surface and took the temperature of its surroundings.
Ultima Thule – an artist vision
Ultima Thule is only about 20 miles across, around the size of New York City. Getting a signal out to New Horizons right now takes about six hours. The spacecraft will send back the first high-resolution images of Ultima Thule from the flyby later this evening, and the mission team will reveal them to the public on January 2nd. It’ll take about 20 months for New Horizons to send back all of the information about Ultima Thule.