While we continue to bask in the afterglow of Elon Musk's historic Falcon Heavy SpaceX launch, it's easy to forget that NASA makes history virtually every day with innovations and milestones that continue to shape the future of the aerospace industry.
The record was previously held by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, which snapped the image data for the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image on February 14, 1990. Or restarted. The probe is periodically in communication with the mission team as it closes in on its next target, a Kuiper Belt object (or perhaps even two paired objects) known as 2014 MU69.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is now one of the most distant human-made objects, and it just took the most distant photograph ever.
Using the aforementioned LORRI tool, New Horizons managed to snap images of multiple Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), as well as dwarf planets, including the 2012 HE85 and 2012 HZ84 KBOs shown in the image above.
In taking these images, New Horizon broke a record that had stood for almost three decades.
Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute said, "New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched". It imaged the Wishing Well at 3.79 billion miles away, beating the Blue Dot photo shoot by 40 million miles.
Since New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft to speed beyond the outer planets, many of its activities have set distance records, too.
New Horizons first left Earth in 2006 with the aim of flying by Pluto, which it did in 2015, taking some dramatic photos along the way. These images, as announced by the administration, broke the 27 years old record of Voyager 1 when it captured the famous Pale Blue Dot image of the Earth. Data is stored in a solid-state recorder (the only moving parts in these flash memory devices are the electrons) on New Horizons and is then transmitted via radio waves.
Shots of these two icy objects were captured by NASA's New Horizons space probe.
With diameters of a hundred kilometers or so, the two Kuiper belt objects are not large enough to classify as dwarf planets.
It wasn't until this past December when Voyager 1's record was finally broken. It's on-track to smash another record next year, when it flies past an object at the edge of our solar system and has the most distant planetary encounter ever. New Horizons began its Kuiper Belt mission a year ago. Now, the shuttle is currently on its way to study one or more other Kuiper belt objects.