On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies by a small Kuiper Belt object known scientifically as 2014 MU69, but nicknamed “Ultima Thule.” Ultima is 4 billion miles from Earth and will be the most ancient and most distant world ever explored close-up. It is expected to offer discoveries about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Chosen by the team and the public, the nickname honors the mythical land beyond the edges of the known world.
But “Summiting” is much more than the story of a sophisticated, plutonium-fueled robotic spacecraft exploring far from the Sun. The New Horizons mission is powered as much by the passions of a small team of humans—men and women, scientists and engineers—for whom pushing the frontiers of the known, climbing the very peaks of the possible, has been the dream of many decades.