Traveling for nearly ten years at a speed of 31,000 miles per hour, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto Tuesday morning. Adriene Hill talked with Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and Principal Investigator for New Horizons, about what to expect.
Click the media player above to hear Marketplace’s Adriene Hill in conversation with Alan Stern.
Stern believes the New Horizons’ fly by is “going to be spectacular.” And at a price tag of upwards of $700 million, he maintains the cost is justifiable because it will make history: “No other country on Earth has been first to any planet. Let alone first to every planet, which is the case for NASA and the United States.”
The U.S. has not ventured into the interplanetary frontier since the Voyager 2’s 1989 mission to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Stern sees this mission to the edges of our solar system as a chance to inspire “a new generation of people to turn a point of light into a planet right before their eyes.”
And as for Pluto’s demotion from planet status by astronomers, Stern defends the little guy, citing the fact that “it has all the attributes of other planet. Its atmosphere is bigger than Earth’s.” He concludes, “What else would you call it?”
NASA’s latest mission might provide precisely the new horizon that both space exploration proponents and Pluto need; it just took almost 10 years and a trip to the end of the solar system to do so.
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