Members of the media garbed in protective unforms view NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on November 4th, 2005 in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Florida during preparations for its mid-January 2006 launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. After a 10 year journey, the craft will reach Pluto on Tuesday.
Members of the media garbed in protective unforms view NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on November 4th, 2005 in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Florida during preparations for its mid-January 2006 launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. After a 10 year journey, the craft will reach Pluto on Tuesday. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

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.   

 

 

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Adriene Hill at @adrienehill