NASA spacecraft halfway between Pluto and next smaller stop

Cape Canaveral (AP) – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is now halfway between Pluto and its next much, much smaller stop.

New Horizons – which reached the milestone this week – is bound for an even more remote object called 2014 MU69. Like Pluto, the object orbits in our solar system’s twilight zone known as the Kuiper (KIE-per) Belt, but is barely 1 percent its size. MU69 is nearly 1 billion miles (1.61 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto.

The spacecraft will swoop past MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. With another 466 million miles (750 million kilometers) remaining, New Horizons will go into hibernation later this week.

Although still zooming along, the spacecraft is slowing down slightly as it gets farther from the sun.

New Horizons arrived at Pluto in 2015, becoming its first visitor from Earth.

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