With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several objects in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy debris that extends far beyond the orbit of Neptune. The false-color images of two of the observed objects — 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 — are the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.
On December 5, 2017 New Horizons turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image — and made history.
The routine calibration frame of the ‘Wishing Well’ open star cluster was taken when the spacecraft was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion km) from Earth — making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from our planet.
Voyager 1’s cameras were turned off shortly after that portrait, leaving its distance record unchallenged for more than 27 years.
New Horizons broke its own record just two hours later with images of two Kuiper Belt objects — 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 — further demonstrating how nothing stands still when you’re covering more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) of space each day.
New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft to speed beyond the outer planets, so many of its activities set distance records.
On December 9, 2017, it carried out the most-distant course-correction maneuver ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft toward a close encounter with a Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
That flight past 2014 MU69 will be the farthest planetary encounter in history, happening one billion miles beyond the Pluto system.
According to NASA, New Horizons is healthy and is currently in hibernation.
Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4, 2018, and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the close encounter with 2014 MU69.