NASA's Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
Posted on January 21, 2021
New Horizons Co-investigator
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
How many of us can say we have actually seen Pluto with our own eyes? Well of course, that means seeing Pluto with the aid of a telescope and an eyepiece for direct visual viewing. But a faint speck, there was Pluto, another planetary world, a world of mystery at the frontier's edge of our solar system.
Thus my overwhelming thought at the time of launch, and most strongly at the Pluto encounter, was that we were on our way to explore a faint smudge of light that I had first seen with my own eyes and began studying 25 years earlier. What a transformation to witness, and a moment of history to be a part of, to go from a purely astronomical world, to a world full of geological and geophysical detail and reality! That it could come true is even more gob smacking, with the good fortune to not only be participating first hand, but being fully cognizant of the magnitude of effort and dedication from engineers, scientists and administrators to bring the New Horizons mission to life and the spacecraft to its practically perfect reality.
Rick Binzel participates in a New Horizons prelaunch press conference at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on Dec. 15, 2006. (Credit: Johns Hopkins APL)
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