Artist's illustration of New Horizons near a Kuiper Belt object. Illustration: JHUAPL/SwRI

As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed through the solar system after its historic rendezvous with Pluto and Ultima Thule, scientists on Earth are thinking up ways to do even more with the mission.

Why it matters: New Horizons transformed our understanding of the solar system by revealing ice mountains on Pluto's surface and beaming back photos of Ultima Thule, a leftover from the dawn of the solar system.

  • If the spacecraft gets a second extended mission, it's possible it could again reveal another never-before-seen world from close range.
  • "The spacecraft is healthy and has plenty of power to go on exploring deeper and deeper into the Kuiper Belt and even beyond it," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern told Axios.

Driving the news: New Horizons scientists just published their first study detailing the Ultima Thule encounter, and the team is planning to ask NASA for another extended mission for the spacecraft next year.

Details: While the Hubble Space Telescope discovered Ultima Thule, the target for the spacecraft's current extended mission, the team will likely need to rely on New Horizons' onboard cameras to find the next destination, Stern said.

  • They hope to find and fly by another object in Ultima Thule's region of space, known as the Kuiper Belt, in the early to mid-2020s.
  • New Horizons is expected to have enough juice to function through the mid-to-late 2030s.
  • By that point, it's possible that the spacecraft will be flying in interstellar space.

Go deeper: NASA's New Horizons phones home after flyby of Ultima Thule

Go deeper

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:15 p.m. ET: 32,381,243 — Total deaths: 985,104 — Total recoveries: 22,285,437Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:15 p.m ET: 7,015,242 — Total deaths: 203,329 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,481,026Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday filed legal opposition to TikTok's request to delay a ban on downloading the app, with a judge expected to rule before the ban is set to go into effect Sunday.

Why it matters: The White House could have simply postponed the ban on its own for another week or two, as it did last Friday. This move suggests it's seeking to use the ban as leverage in ongoing negotiations.

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Axios Re:Cap digs in with Chris Best, CEO of Substack, which has more than 250,000 paying subscribers on its writer network.

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