On Saturday night we went to Pluto…and a little further…just for fun. And it was fun, cool, incredible, and downright really good!
Back in March we had hoped to attend a potluck dinner and presentation at our Quaker Meeting with friends from Baltimore County. The presentation was to be done by Alice Bowman, who is a member of our Meeting and who is Mission Operations Manager (MOM) for NASA’s New Horizons project mission to Pluto and beyond at the Johns Hopkins Applied Science lab just a few miles from our home. Notably, Alice is the first woman to fill the role of Mission Operations Manager, by the way.
Her March presentation had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it was not until now that she was able to deliver it to our Meeting. And, of course, the presentation was by Zoom. However, that did not make it any less fascinating. Alice recounted the story of New Horizons, which launched in January 2006 shortly after it was demoted as a planet. Though this was a blow to her team, they carried on. In July 2015 New Horizons flew by Pluto and took some extraordinary photos of the planet, such as the one you see above in this blog. With the flyby New Horizons entered the history books.
However, New Horizons is not finished. On January 1, 2019 it also did a flyby of another object in the Kuiper Belt. Now known as Arrokoth, the object has a most unusual shape. Be sure to check it out.
New Horizons has continued to fly outward from the Earth at a record breaking speed of 36,400 mph. At this point, New Horizons is only halfway through its mission. It has enough fuel to keep going until the mid-2030’s and, hopefully, it will continue to send photos back of everything it sees out there.
Last Saturday we were joined by our friends from Baltimore County and also friends from Kansas. As much as we like to disrespect Zoom after so many months of being confined to it, it would not have been possible to gather these friends, or the whole of our Meeting, without it.
If you’d like to see the presentation…or one very similar to it…check out this 53 minute presentation from YouTube featuring Alice speaking to an astronomy group.
Kudos to Alice and the New Horizon’s team for a series of amazing feats of daring and skill to bring Pluto closer to us all! All I can say is “Wow!” And I still prefer to think of Pluto as a planet.