The Latest: NASA spacecraft dashes by world beyond Pluto

New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, speaks about new data received from the New Horizons spacecraft during a press conference after the team received confirmation from the spacecraft that it has completed a flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the APL in Laurel, Md. The spacecraft survived the most distant exploration of another world, a tiny, icy object 4 billion miles away that looks to be shaped like a peanut or bowling pin. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
FILE - This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. NASA launched the probe in 2006; it's about the size of a baby grand piano. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly past the mysterious object nicknamed Ultima Thule at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI via AP)
New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory speaks about new data received from the New Horizons spacecraft during a press conference after the team received confirmation from the spacecraft that it has completed a flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the APL in Laurel, Md. The spacecraft survived the most distant exploration of another world, a tiny, icy object 4 billion miles away that looks to be shaped like a peanut or bowling pin. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, left, speaks about the New Horizons spacecraft during a press conference after the team received confirmation from the spacecraft that it has completed a flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. Listening at right is mission operations manager Alice Bowman The spacecraft survived the most distant exploration of another world, a tiny, icy object 4 billion miles away that looks to be shaped like a peanut or bowling pin. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
A new image of Ultima Thule, right, is displayed during a press conference after the New Horizons team received confirmation from the spacecraft has completed a flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the APL in Laurel, Md. The spacecraft survived the most distant exploration of another world, a tiny, icy object 4 billion miles away that looks to be shaped like a peanut or bowling pin. From left are, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, mission operations manager Alice Bowman, mission systems engineer Chris Hersman, and project scientist Hal Weaver. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
In this photo provided by NASA, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., center, celebrates with school children at the exact moment that the New Horizons spacecraft made the closest approach of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule, early Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
New Horizons team members and guests watch a live feed of the Mission Operations Center (MOC) as the team waits to receive confirmation from the spacecraft that it has completed the flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, left, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., left gives a high-five too New Horizons mission operations manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), after the team received signals from the spacecraft that it is healthy and collected data, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the Mission Operations Center at the APL in Laurel, Md. The spacecraft survived a journey to near the tiny, icy object called Ultima Thule, about 4 billion miles from Earth. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Guests applaud New Horizons team members after the they received signals from the New Horizons spacecraft that it is healthy and it collected data during a fly-by of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the Mission Operations Center at the APL in Laurel, Md. The spacecraft survived a journey to near the tiny, icy object called Ultima Thule, about 4 billion miles from Earth. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
FILE - This composite image made available by NASA shows the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed "Ultima Thule," indicated by the crosshairs at center, with stars surrounding it on Aug. 16, 2018, made by the New Horizons spacecraft. The brightness of the stars was subtracted from the final image using a separate photo from September 2017, before the object itself could be detected. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute via AP)
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, center, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., celebrates with other mission team members after they received signals from the New Horizons spacecraft that it is healthy and collected data during the flyby of Ultima Thule, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the Mission Operations Center at the APL in Laurel, Md. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

LAUREL, Md. — The Latest on NASA's New Horizons' New Year rendezvous (all times local):

10:40 a.m.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has survived humanity's most distant exploration of another world.

Ten hours after the middle-of-the-night encounter 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, received word from the spacecraft late Tuesday morning. Cheers erupted at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control.

An anxious spill-over crowd in a nearby auditorium joined in the loud celebration.

New Horizons zoomed past the small celestial object known as Ultima Thule 3 ½ years after its spectacular brush with Pluto. Scientists say it will take nearly two years for New Horizons to beam back all its observations of Ultima Thule, a full billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto. At that distance, it takes six hours for the radio signals to reach Earth.

___

12:33 a.m.

A NASA spacecraft opens the new year at the most distant world ever explored, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

Flight controllers say everything looked good for New Horizons' flyby of the tiny, icy object at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday, 3 ½ years after its encounter with Pluto. Confirmation won't come for hours, though, given the vast distance. The mysterious target nicknamed Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) is 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth.

Scientists want New Horizons observing Ultima Thule, not phoning home. So they won't know until late morning whether the spacecraft survived.

With New Horizons on autopilot, Mission Control at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, was empty. Instead, team members and their guests gathered nearby for back-to-back countdowns at midnight and again 33 minutes later.

Queen guitarist Brian May, who also happens to be an astrophysicist, joined the team at Johns Hopkins for a midnight premiere of the song he wrote for the big event.

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