Even though the NASA New Horizons mission is still in hibernation mode, it was recently given the go-ahead to begin collecting data on interplanetary space. The mission is currently on its way to fly by Pluto. The point of closest approach will be reached in 2015.
Already, the vehicle – which is the fastest spacecraft ever built – is located more than 24 astronomical units from the Sun. An AU is equivalent to the mean distance between Earth and its parent star, around 93 million miles (157 million kilometers), SpaceRef
In hibernation mode, all science instruments, navigational star trackers and most flight electronics are shut down. However, the Student Dust Counter (SDC), developed by students at the University of Colorado in Boulder, has now been turned on.
The purpose of this instrument is to collect measurements on the nature of interplanetary space in a region of the solar system where no such investigations were ever conducted before.