With the success of the Pluto flyby, the New Horizons team hopes to replicate the feat, this time for a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), its proposal suggests.

The team led by Alan Stern has just submitted a proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for a new challenge for the interplanetary space probe called Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM), which will go on until 2021. The team hopes to receive a reply after a peer review within June or July.

Should the team receive a nod of approval from the space agency, New Horizons will then proceed to farther depths of the outer solar system particularly the Kuiper Belt, an icy region lying beyond Neptune's orbit.

The region as well as the KBOs that include comets may hold more data for many of the universe's mysteries including origins of the heavenly bodies. However, the team is setting its sights on 2014 MU69 (or simply MU69), a KBO that's way smaller than Pluto but significantly bigger than Comet 67P. 

"This places it in a key intermediate size regime to better understand planetary accretion. And given its 4-plus-billion-year existence in cold storage [while located] so far from the sun, MU69 will be the most pristine object ever visited by any space mission," wrote Stern in his April 14 blog post.

The team believes that the New Horizons flyby, with the closest approach on January 1, 2019, will be much better than that of Pluto due to its expected closeness to the KBO.

"The planned flyby will approach MU69 to about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers), which is about four times closer than we flew past Pluto," wrote Stern.

The space probe will use all of its seven instruments to obtain high-resolution images and mapping that may help determine the atmosphere in the area and if there is presence of a moon. After the flyby, data will be beamed to Earth until 2020.

New Horizons has already gone through engine burn toward MU69, but if the proposal doesn't push through, the team is left with no choice but to turn the probe off before the year ends.

Nevertheless, Stern is keeping his hopes up considering that the probe is still in pristine condition to proceed with KEM. 

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