Headline Aug 18, 2015/ ''' PLUTO : THE LOVE OF THIS WORLD '''

''' PLUTO : 


FROM THE MOMENT OF its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, an Illinois farm who'd talked his way into a job at Arizona's Lowell Observatory-

Even though he'd never been to college, the tiny world fired the public imagination in a way that just so beautiful.

At first, it was simply known as New Planet, bit it was soon given its familiar name at the suggestion of an  11-year old British girl/Student named Venetia Burney, who thought the Roman god of the underworld nicely captured the feeling surrounding the dark and remote world.

A few months later, Walter Disney capitalized on the public's fascination by naming Mickey Mouse's pet dog after the new planet. In 1955 the first Frisbee marketed as the Pluto Platter.

Student Alan Stern was still a grad student at the University of Colorado back in 1989 when NASA's Voyager space probe completed its grand tour of the outer solar system.

Its sister ship Voyager 1, had gone before it, returning the close-up images and scientific measurements of the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, along with their moons. But then it veered off, and Voyager 2 went on alone to explore Uranus as well, and then Neptune, at the outer edge of the solar system.

And with that remarkable feat, the first reconnaissance of our sun's planetary family was complete.

Except, of course, for Pluto. At the time, there simply wasn't enough fuel to get Voyager 2 there. Surely NASA's strategic vision included a later trip by a different ship to visit the tiny planet.

But through a failure of both will and wallet, NASA had no such plans. So a young student Stern decided he'd lead the change to make a Pluto mission happen.

This July 14, more than a quarter century later, his dream was finally fulfilled. Around noon on that date, after  nine-year,  3 billion-mile journey, NASA's  1000-lb., grand-piano size, $700 million  New Horizon's probe streaked past tiny Pluto at a blistering 31,000 miles per hour.

The spacecraft is so remote now that radio communications   -travelling at the speed of light-  require nearly a nine hour round-trip. Ultimately, New Horizons came within 6,000 miles of the icy-world, furiously snapping pictures and recording data-

On the temperature, structure and composition of Pluto, its five known Moons and anything else that might be there   -more moons, perhaps or a system of rings.

But it's Pluto that's the real prize. The little world has intrigued astronomers since it was first discovered more than 85 years ago. Until Pluto showed up, all the outer planets were known to be gas giants. 

What was this pip-squeak doing out there alone? What was it made of? Why did it even exist?

For a long time, those questions seemed destined to go unanswered. Stern and other Scientists appealed to NASA a half-dozen times during the 1990s with one proposal after another for a Pluto mission.

They trudged to and from conference rooms, armed with charts and graphs and spreadsheets, with technical specs demonstrating why this latest version of a Pluto plan would be better, faster and cheaper than the one before it.

And each time, NASA said no   -usually on the grounds of budgetary poverty.

''I was counselled many times by senior people to give it up,'' Stern says. ''They said things like,  'You have better things to do with your career' and  ''There's a fine line between being in the groove and stuck in a rut.'' He ignored them.

Fortunately, he had a very nonscientist card to play: human sentiment.

People just love Pluto.

The Honour and Serving of the  ''Operational Research'' continues. Thank you for reading and see you on the following one.

With respectful dedication to NASA. See Ya on the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' New Horizons '''

Good Night and God bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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