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New Horizons: The Pluto Space Mission

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1 New Horizons: The Pluto Space Mission on Mon Jul 13, 2015 11:51 pm

or God Dammit it's a Planet, Neil Degrasse Tyson

Think of the term, or phrase, “New Horizons”. What immediately comes to mind? What about those two words colours and excites the imagination. Maye the words themselves put together; new, original and fresh start, and horizon, the far reach beyond where sky meets the earth. The ideas brought together brings feelings of hope and possibilities. Maybe it’s the idea of the unexplored, a new undiscovered landscape brought before us in horizon, a vast epoch and eon where our knowledge ends and the mystery begins.

Not the hype this up, what about the mission New Horizons brings to your mind and all of your imaginative capacity. As of tomorrow, the National Aeronautic & Space Administration planetary space probe the “New Horizons” will be arriving within orbit around the then ninth planet, now third dwarf planet (thanks Neil Degrasse Tyson, Cosmos didn’t make up for that  Mad ) Pluto and it’s then only known moon Charon. Launched on January 19th, 2006 from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas V rocket, it has taken nine years travelling alone through the darkness of space for the time it takes a child to reach 4th grade. Think about that. Think of the last nine years of your life, all of the events and milestones made, and realize while you’ve gone through that, the New Horizons has be going on a harrowing journey through space for the purpose of unrevealing the mystery of Pluto. A scene from a film that comes to mind is when the Endurance is passing by a beautiful landscape shot of southern hemisphere of Saturn. Maybe the song “Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground,” was New Horizon’s one song for the journey. Maybe some V Sauce viewers recognize it from one of his episodes, or perhaps Neil Degrasse Tyson had brought it to your attention in the premiere episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Now, after nearly a decade of travelling, tomorrow it will arrive to fulfill its mission of exploring Pluto for the first time in human history. The biggest success in planetary astronomy since Huygens-Cassini probe reaching Saturn’s moon Titan in January 2005, and the furthest point a spacecraft since the original Voyager probes.

What’s the big deal? Maybe it’s cool for geeks and science nerds, but what so special about arriving at Pluto. During the “The Old Republic” stream, I believe either Raskor or Deutschkind made a joke that, “yay! We’ll discover its cold and a rock in space.” Or something to that effect. Where he was sarcastic or not, it does has a valid question. What’s so special about Pluto? Why spend the amount Bungie wasted on Destiny? What are we going to get out of reaching and probing around Pluto? Well, the largest question of “what is the point of science research and exploration anyways” is too board a topic and discussion I’m too overwhelm to handle. It’s on on-going debate. Even the “smaller” of “what is the point of space exploration anyways?” I still don’t feel that I can give a competent answer, but I do believe Cosmos, all three of them: both Carl Sagan’s book and TV documentary series, and Seth MacFarlane’s remade “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”, can answer that question. But why study Pluto? Well, let me give it a shot.

Pluto is the furthest planet (Yes, a planet, dammit Tyson  Mad ) is a mystery. We don’t have a photograph, we don’t have its crust’s and core’s composition, and we don’t even know how it possibly could have formed. Why is Pluto and other heavy Kuiper belt objects and other things floating within the Oort cloud doing there? And maybe, are they an explanation of how Earth could have gotten all of its liquid water? Taking a look at Pluto has much more influence on other branches of science than just sending a probe for kicks. It also can serve as a major piece puzzle in the grander picture of astronomy as a whole. Maybe how Pluto formed and what it’s maybe of will give us a baseline for exploring and finding exosolar (beyond Solar System) planets and dwarf planets. It serves as a basis for studying the Oort cloud and if there is any Planet X out there. Believe it or not, there is not a solution to Neptune’s and Uranus’s orbit. For the mass they too have out too have stable orbits just to be by themselves, something must be pulling it them outwards. The search for this planet or massive object is called trans-Neptunian Objects. If we discover such an object, be it massive dwarf planet or frozen Kuiper Belt object, or if it’s a collection of massive objects too dim to see and but too cold to detect. New Horizons might help to solve this problem. For Pluto itself, is it the furthest point of the Solar System naturally formed… or it’s an alien planet caught by the Sun’s far reaching gravity? It is brighter than other Kuiper Belt objects of frozen ice. It is also more noticeable the Ceres, an equal large but less known Pluto. Why is that? Both of are equal size, why don’t look the same? Where the formed in the same way or did they develop independently of each other?

See, there are a lot of practical science questions relevant to our search in space for both planetary sciences and astronomy as a whole (I study massive, blue stars and how they die and what forms from the remnants like neutron stars or black holes. Planetary sciences are not my area of study). But in general, as in principle, why do we look towards the sky and study space and send off probes into deep space? What’s the point? I say this about the point of science, we do things not because their easy. We do things in the planetary sciences precisely because their difficult. Sound familiar? It’s our curiosity and sense of adventure to look up at the sky and wonder. The night sky some argue was the first science. Circles and seasons, celestial navigation of sailing ships, and hunting and crop farming are all earlier primitive practices that utilizes the night sky. But now we don’t need to use the sky to determine the seasons, we don’t farm anymore, we don’t we use the sky for dealing time. Poets might use, “I am a sundial and I do a botch of a job done much better by a watch.”

What’s the point of the night sky? Isn’t it a reverse question of “what is the point of Pluto”? One is retrospective because we’ve surpassed our need for them, but in some ways we haven’t. The other assume that we don’t need to grow anymore and all else it’s already accomplished. Everything is just filling in the details. Well, won’t you look to have the United Starfleet Starship Enterprise for real? Wouldn’t you like to be in the movie “Interstellar” for real exploring the galaxy and deep space. Lord Kelvin and many like me assume at that is made has already been invented. Just before the explosion of aircraft that has changed the world. The Royal Society congradulated James Clerk Maxwell on unifying electricity and magnetism with his four partial differential equations describing all manner of motors, generators, light switches, radios, and televisions. Such was before Max Planck and the rise of the quantum revolution overriding the golden era of Clockwork Universe. If you’re green you grow, but if you’re ripe you rot. To me New Horizons is just that, it’s what beyond over the horizon of our present understanding. Not for the present, but an investment into our future as a civilization. In the grand scheme of things, New Horizons plays a small part in a much grand vision of space exploration. But this is Archengeia’s Forum. Many of you are Star Trek fans, so I don’t need to preach to the Roddenberry Ideal.

That’s why we explore the night sky. That’s why I’m excited for New Horizons space probe. I’m excited, hyoped to find out what it discovers. And what a treat it arrives on my 23rd birthday. Man, science gives the best presents. First the Higgs Boson around my 20th birthday, and now this. The only thing that might top this is perhaps a kiss from Tara Strong. But then again, Timmy Turner, Dill Pickles, and Ben kissing me sounds horrifying. Maybe I should be careful for what I wish for. I’ll be back tomorrow for the first transmissions! Damn, 4 light hours is a long time for a picture to slowly upload. And I thought dial was a nightmare!

Extainhaln, Imperium Astrophysicist and Science Advisor to the Lich King Archengeia

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2 Re: New Horizons: The Pluto Space Mission on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:39 am

It always amuses me to no end to see the space nerds arguing over whether Pluto is a planet or not. Anyway on topic I think you are overthinking kissing Tara Strong. That's a Grade A beautiful woman right there and any one inclined to do so would be lucky to kiss her. Wink

For reals though, now that the data is coming in what did you learn from it Shadow?

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