NASA's New Horizons made history when it flew by Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed 'Ultima Thule' on New Year's Day of this year. Today, even though only 10% of the scientific data that the spacecraft collected has been sent to Earth, New Horizons has provided an amazing glimpse into the primordial solar system and revealed that Ultima Thule is the first contact binary object ever observed “in the wild,” where it formed, and in a largely unmodified state since its birth. High resolution images and the first comprehensive compositional spectroscopy data are now in-hand with the science team and many more scientific results will no doubt soon be forthcoming.
To discuss the key results of this successful flyby and the future of the mission, we invited Alan Stern, planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute and the Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission who will join us remotely via video-conferencing. Two Senior Research Scientists from our own SETI Institute who are part of the mission will participate in this discussion as well. Mark Showalter is a Fellow of the Institute who led the New Horizons risk assessment team before the flyby, and Ross Beyer, also a member of the New Horizons Geology and Geophysics team, who is helping to understand the 3D shape of MU69.
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