Thursday, July 16, 2015

PLUTO - The Flyby

"Pluto, underdog of the solar system, finally gets its day" PBS NewsHour 7/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Soon, some of the mystery surrounding Pluto, the distant dwarf planet, will be lifted.  NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, speeding through space for almost a decade on a mission to capture a myriad of data, is believed to have finally made a successful Pluto flyby.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports.

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Ready or not, it is finally time for Pluto’s closeup.  Once a full-fledged planet, now considered something less, it remains an intriguing mystery 85 years after its discovery, but not for long.  The picture is growing clearer as a fast-moving spacecraft arrives at the solar system’s underdog.

ALAN STERN, New Horizons Principal Investigator:  It was always the planet with the little question marks everywhere.  We didn’t know anything.  And because it’s the last in the public mind, it takes a special place.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Pluto has taken a special place in planetary scientist Alan Stern’s mind since 1988.  That’s when he first began pushing NASA to send a spacecraft to what was then the ninth planet in our solar system.

The three-billion-mile journey of the New Horizons spacecraft began in 2006.  It left the Earth faster than any spacecraft ever, making a beeline for Pluto, getting a gravitational kick from Jupiter as it bulleted past, snapping pictures all the while.  And now, after nearly a decade in space, New Horizons is finally there.

HAL WEAVER, New Horizons Project Scientist:  I like to call this a mission of delayed gratification, because it takes nine-and-a-half years to get all the way out to Pluto, but we’re almost there.  And the opportunity to transform Pluto from a little pixelated blob into a world with complexity and diversity is just going to be amazing.

"Welcome to Pluto, where you’ll find mountains the size of the Rockies" PBS NewsHour 7/15/2015


SUMMARY:  Today, NASA released the first ever close-up photographs of Pluto.  The images showed icy mountains and a mysterious pale patch shaped like a heart.  Judy Woodruff speaks to science correspondent Miles O’Brien about what we have learned about Pluto so far.

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