New Horizons probe awakens to receive software upgrade

Kuiper-belt-bound craft needs a few weeks of tweaks to prepare for Space Duck 2.0

The New Horizons probe has successfully ended its five-month hibernation and resumed chats with its mission controllers.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab received the “I'm okay” message via NASA's Deep Space Network station in Madrid.

Once the probe's back in “Active” state, it's got a busy schedule before a December 9 course correction maneuver to set it on course for Kuiper Belt Object MU69, before another hibernation starting December 22.

Before then, mission control will check its scientific and data-collection instruments, and push a software upgrade.

New Horizons will get “press Yes to install” in October for “a new suite of fault-protection software – also known as autonomy software” in early October, the Johns Hopkins APL announcement says.

Currently 5.8 billion kilometres from Earth, New Horizons will cover another 700,000 kilometres to reach MU69 on January 1, 2019.

The probe's December hibernation will last until June 2018, when the team will wake it up one last time to prepare for the MU69 approach. Astroboffins believe MU 69 is duck-shaped, perhaps because it is two rocks in close proximity. New Horizons will come within just 3,500km of the object, close enough that we should be able to figure out what it's made of. Literally and metaphorically. ®

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