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

Trump casts himself as chief defender of American history in divisive speech at Rushmore

President Trump spoke out against a "merciless campaign" to wipe out American history during a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore.

Why it matters: Trump's "dark and divisive" speech comes as states continue to hit new coronavirus records and a national reckoning against racial inequities pushes forward, The New York Times writes. Trump's public approval is faltering heading toward the November elections, and he made an appeal to his base at Friday's spectacle, per The Washington Post.

Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Drive-in movie theaters, the symbol of a bygone era before cellphones and constant distraction, are suddenly reemerging as a popular form of entertainment during the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: Indoor movie theaters are closed, but people still crave entertainment and a chance to get out of their houses. Watching a movie from the safety of a car is the next best thing.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 a.m. ET: 11,093,182 — Total deaths: 525,491 — Total recoveries — 5,890,052Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 a.m. ET: 2,795,163 — Total deaths: 129,437 — Total recoveries: 790,404 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  5. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.