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New Horizons carrying NINE (yes, NINE!!) “gifts” to Pluto…

 

Today was the day a lot of speculation about the “cargo” of goodies, mementoes and gifts the spaceprobe New Horizons is carrying with it to Pluto. The list has been released, and you can find full details here, in Alan Stern’s own words. Two of the items stand out as being particularly appropriate to me – some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto, and a small piece of “Spaceship One”, the privately-built and flown spaceplane that won the X-Prize a couple of years ago.

… and why did Alan Stern, the man behind the Pluto-bound NEW HORIZONS mission choose to send nine? Hmmm, let me think… maybe it’s because that Pluto is still, in the hearts and minds of many people, the NINTH PLANET in the solar System, and always will be, despite what the IAU decided in that about-as-democratic-as-a-Zimbabwean-election meeting a couple of years ago… 🙂

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3 Responses

  1. Ummm, New Horizons was launched (2006-01-19) about seven months before the IAU decision (2006-08-24). Maybe nine for the ninth planet but not as politically so as you imply.

  2. Thanks for commenting Ed 🙂 I wasn’t suggesting the decisiion to place nine items onboard the probe was a *response* to the meeting, but Pluto’s status was being discussed/debated at the time, and it was clear that its “planethood” was under threat. I’m sure The NH team were making a statement by placing 9 objects onboard. And that IAU meeting was very undemocratic – when only a small number of members of a group attened a meeting of that group, then only a small number of those attendees actually vote on an issue – many of them having nothing to do at all with planetary science – then I think that’s pretty wrong.

    Can’t wait to see what NH shows us in 6 years…!

  3. You got it exactly, phoenixpics, when it comes to the IAU vote. Only four percent of the IAU membership voted, most of whom are not planetary scientists. No absentee voting was allowed, meaning anyone who couldn’t stay to the last day of a two-week conference had no say in this whatsoever. The IAU did not even follow its own bylaws, which require a resolution to first be vetted in the appropriate committee before being sent to the floor of the General Assembly for a vote. Instead, they threw out the 12-planet recommendation their own committee made and adopted a resolution in real time in a very confusing and sloppy proceeding. Anyone can watch it on the IAU’s web site. You’ll see all the last minute changes made right before the vote–first the footnotes count; then they don’t; cross out this portion; add this instead, and on and on. It’s like viewing theater of the absurd. That’s not to mention that there was a lot of anti-American sentiment that went into the vote because Pluto was discovered by an American, and many Europeans were angry at the US over the Iraq war. Additionally, many planetary scientists do not even belong to the IAU, so they never had a chance to have a say in this.

    Technically, Ceres is a planet too, which makes Pluto the tenth planet. However, the emphasis on the traditional nine is clearly meant as the statement it should be–a public rejection of the IAU fiasco. Many astronomers are betting the IAU definition will not last past 2015, when New Horizons reveals Pluto as the planet it is, and Dawn does the same for Ceres.

    Thank you for not being afraid to tell the truth about what happened in 2006 and for not blindly accepting the IAU’s ridiculous decision.

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