Pluto, The Little Planet That Could

 

The world was wrapped in awe last week when NASA’s probe, New Horizons, took some flattering photographs of Pluto, the little planet that could. A solid mass at the edge of our solar system that’s always had a little bit of an identity crisis. Some people say it’s a mere dwarf planet, while others argue for it’s full planet status. But in the end, it does not matter, for we have seen the face of the celestial body, and it was beautiful.

The beauty though, does not just lie with the pictures we’ve seen of the planet’s surface or it’s moons, but of what it means for our future when it comes to understanding our universe. We have decade old technology that can transmit data, hundreds of millions of miles away, and has provided us a look at our solar system for the last several decades. We’ve only touched the tip of the universal ice berg, and what scientists are designing now will only allow us to get closer to that Star Trek like future, where we can explore the vastness of our universe, and maybe, eventually live there.

What’s disappointing though, is the lack of fervor the human race once had for space travel. In the 1960’s, space shuttle launches were televised and were household events. The neighborhood would gather at the only house with a television set and watch as massive shuttles left our orbit. Nowadays, the internet talks about Pluto for a second, turns it into a meme, and forgets about it the next day. Maybe it’s just a sign of our fast moving times, but still, it was a pretty impressive event.

Hopefully, with the Pluto flyby, our excitement for the stars will rekindle, and more and more people will want to study with and even work for NASA. It used to be the childhood dream to be an astronaut, but nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to hear anyone even remember the last big event before the Pluto flyby. It’s possible the general public prefers the science fiction part of space, like Interstellar, Star Trek and (in some ways) Gravity. (Star Wars does NOT count, that’s a science fantasy.)

It is good to know that NASA, with proper funding, has no intention of just stopping at Pluto, but has hopes of letting New Horizons push forward until 2030, to see what else it can…see. For now, the probe will orbit Pluto, take photos and provide data for NASA, for another year and a half, before going out into the great unknown.

Source – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/07/15/future-of-new-horizons-spacecraft/30208321/

 

Francis Fernandez
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