Closing In on Planet Pluto: an Interview with New Horizons PI Alan Stern

The names of my husband and my son, together with mine and other thousands of names are on a golden disc that NASA has placed on the New Horizons that is nearly reaching Pluto. It comes in a moment that our family life is completely changing – possibly in a positive way.
I think this is really a New Horizon for us as well. This is why I read with so much interest about this spacecraft I am particularly fond of.

Lights in the Dark

Artist's impression of the New Horizons flyby in July 2015. (NASA/SwRI)Artist’s impression of the New Horizons flyby in July 2015. (NASA/SwRI)

After more than nine years of traveling through space the New Horizons spacecraft is now in the home stretch of its journey, with less than 120 days and 143 million kilometers to go before it makes its historic flyby of the Pluto system on July 14. It will be the first time we get a good close-up look at the distant world which had for over seven decades held reign over the frozen edges of our Solar System as the outermost planet, much like its namesake governed the cold darkness of the mythological Greek underworld.

Discovered on February 18, 1930, the ninth planet Pluto lost its “full” planetary status in August 2006 as the result of a highly-contested decision by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to create a new class of “dwarf planets,” of which Pluto, Ceres, and the then-recently-discovered Eris became charter members. Seven months…

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