International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arrokoth and other Kupier Belt objects

Mains level : New Horizons mission

The most distant space object ever seen up close has been recently named as ‘Arrokoth’.

(Note: It was earlier nicknamed as Ultima Thule)


  • The International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center, the global body for naming Kuiper Belt objects have given this name.
  • It was discovered in 2014 with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
  • Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the snowman figured ice mass in December 2018, some 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto.
  • The New Horizons team of NASA proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center.
  • For the New Horizons team it took some months to finalise this name. In the language of the Powhatan tribe, Arrokoth means “sky”.
  • The team got the approval from the elders of the Powhatan tribe to assign it to their new found “baby”.

About New Horizons mission

  • NASA launched the New Horizons mission in January 2006.
  • After crossing by Pluto in 2015, in 2019 it flew by Arrokoth. This remains the “farthest flyby ever conducted.”


Kuiper Belt

  • The Kuiper Belt is a disk-shaped region found in the outer solar system, past the orbit of Neptune.
  • It is known as the third zone of the solar system, after the zone hosting the gas planets in our solar system.
  • It contains hundreds of millions of small icy bodies that are thought to be left over material from the formation of the outer planets.
  • At least three dwarf planets are located in the Kuiper belt: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
  • Also, some of the solar system’s moons are thought to have originated there, such as Neptune’s Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe.
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