NASA launched the spacecraft in 2006; it flew past Pluto in 2015, providing the first close-up views of the dwarf planet. After the successful flyby, NASA set their sights on a destination deep inside the Kuiper Belt, Ultima Thule is that object.

This Kuiper Belt object was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.  Officially known as 2014 MU69, it got the nickname Ultima Thule in an online vote.  When New Horizons first glimpsed the rocky iceball in August it was just a dot. Good close-up pictures should be available the day after the flyby.

New Horizons will make its closest approach in the wee hours of January 1st  hurtling by within 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles) of Ultima Thule at some 50,700 kph (31,500 mph).  It will take about 10 hours to get confirmation that the spacecraft completed — and survived — the encounter. Hopefully, later on New Year’s day we shall get that, so keep an eye on the media.  It will take almost two years for New Horizons to beam back all its data on Ultima Thule.  A flyby of an even more distant world could be in the offing in the 2020s, if NASA approves another mission extension and the spacecraft remains healthy.