New Horizons and beyond
The journey to the infinite reaches of deep space could very well begin with NASA’s New Horizons.
After passing the dwarf planet (which took nine years to reach), New Horizon’s journey has just begun. It has a new destination in mind. It is one billion miles beyond Pluto, which lies in the Kuiper Belt, an area beyond the small planet’s own orbit of the Sun, the largest sphere in the planetary system.
Over one hundred thousand mini-worlds could be discovered through New Horizon’s journey into deep space. But the journey must still be approved by powers beyond its control. Even so, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate chief, John Grunsfeld, believes that the go-ahead may be imminent if scientists are able to convince authorities that the mission has great potential for new scientific discoveries and that it will cost far less than previous deep space explorations because the spacecraft will be able to save energy and use less fuel.
Previously, New Horizons saved energy by taking intermittent breaks during its long journey to Pluto. The scientists at NASA believe that New Horizons might just have enough power to last a journey taking about twenty years to complete. This is made possible through a probe which is fitted with a battery that converts radiation from decaying plutonium into electricity. In the process, the spacecraft loses very little power.
For now, while waiting for the go-ahead to proceed with its next mission, New Horizons will continue transmitting data collected during its exploration of Pluto.