On Tuesday, Clyde Tombaugh visited Pluto, or at least his ashes did.
When I was a kid, in school, we would order paperback books that cost a small amount. Let’s face it, my parents should have known, by the time I was in the fifth grade that I had a problem. I always ordered more books than anyone else in the class. One of my favorites was called the Search for Planet X. The tale about how Clyde Tombaugh’s obsession led to the discovery of Planet X, or Pluto is one of the most important reads of my childhood. I already loved science, some of my earliest memories being the pre-Mercury launches, and going outside with my grandmother Froehlich, who was astronaut-happy, to see if we could get a glimpse of anything. (Later, when I worked as a lobbyist with NASA, my grandmother became infamous for being astronaut happy, acquiring her own astronaut fans).
Clyde Tombaugh‘s tale is one which excited my imagination. It probably didn’t hurt that, while I was reading it, I discovered a pathetic little television show no one was watching, thus sealing my fate, forever. You give a kid good science that is easy to read, and very good science fiction like Star Trek, and well, unfortunately, you get moi. I suppose that’s why this day is almost magical for me.
Year later, when I was all grown up (allegedly) and working on a project, I became friends with an co-authors with one of the scientists who envisioned a new kind of space probe. Anticipating the fact that NASA was going to need to do planetary exploration on the ‘cheap’ they decided to propose an entire program of ‘cheap & dirty’ probes which would not be as glamorous as the Voyager series but would yield as much information. They knew, even then, it would take at least 35-40 years for their vision to yield results. I guess that’s what I’m thinking about while I write this.
“…”I’m delighted at this latest accomplishment by NASA, another first that demonstrates once again how the United States leads the world in space,” said John Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “New Horizons is the latest in a long line of scientific accomplishments at NASA, including multiple missions orbiting and exploring the surface of Mars in advance of human visits still to come; the remarkable Kepler mission to identify Earth-like planets around stars other than our own; and the DSCOVR satellite that soon will be beaming back images of the whole Earth in near real-time from a vantage point a million miles away. As New Horizons completes its flyby of Pluto and continues deeper into the Kuiper Belt, NASA’s multifaceted journey of discovery continues.”
“The exploration of Pluto and its moons by New Horizons represents the capstone event to 50 years of planetary exploration by NASA and the United States,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Once again we have achieved a historic first. The United States is the first nation to reach Pluto, and with this mission has completed the initial survey of our solar system, a remarkable accomplishment that no other nation can match.”…”
New Horizons is the product of decades of dreams. Probes like this have made planetary exploration sexy again – if for one brief shining moment. Even today, after the Obama Administration has done everything possible to enable commercial space flight, much to the detriment of NASA, 58% of the American people think it is essential for us to be a leader in space exploration. Thanks to the Obama Administration and liberal Democrats, we no longer are.
We really don’t have that many reasons these days to wave our American flags. Our nation is in decline thanks to the extremes of both liberal, conservative, and libertarian policies. Patriotism is a joke. If you say something good about this nation, it must be predicated with how bad people are, how racist and bigoted we are, and how lacking in compassion.
We don’t have much reason to wave our flags. Our military, Department of Defense is openly training Neo-Nazis in the Ukraine. John Kerry just made what could be a disastrous deal with Iran. Our country is a miserable place to live with poverty and despair on the rise. Our once active space program gave our nation pride and a sense of the future. The Obama Administration has effectively killed it.
Thank heavens for planetary exploration!