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The Mission to Pluto and the Mission to Earth


Over the past few days, the Internet has been abuzz about the New Horizons probe and its mission to Pluto.

While scientists continue to debate if Pluto is truly the ninth planet in our solar system or merely the largest dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, no one can deny the momentous nature of this occasion.

Suddenly, photos of Pluto and its moon, Charon, have snapped into view, crystal clear snapshots of what was until now the last truly unexplored heavenly body in our solar system.

But think for a moment what went into this mission: launching a probe at the record-setting rate of 36,000 mph, spanning nine-and-a-half years and a four billion miles. All in order for what amounts to, in the scheme of things, only a few brief moments passing its main target.

What justify can such an investment of time and energy? Such an incredibly journey for such a brief interaction?

The answer lies in what will come next: NASA will continue to receive data from the flyby over the next 16 months—and the information unpacked from there will surely extend for years to come.


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