New Horizons is a Mission for the Patient (and Persistent). It is a labor of love, dedication, fortitude, with compelling science, top-notch engineering, and tight management. This is an entry part of a blog series covering the Pluto Science Conference, held July 22-26, 2013 in Laurel, MD.
Tom Krimigis (JHU/APL) started off our excited Pluto crowd with an overview of the steps that enabled the New Horizons mission to become reality. Any science mission starts with its science objectives. Successful science mission concepts that make it to launch rely on thorough reviews of its science, engineering, and investment (i.e. cost & feasibility). New Horizons, owes its existence to both initial scientific grounding work by the scientists in the 1970s and equally also to the persistence of those scientists and supporters at NASA and Congress over the subsequent decades to make it get to flight. New Horizons was selected in November 2001 from a competition and launched in January 2006. It will reach its destination, the Pluto-Charon system in 2015.
A rose by any other name is still a rose. A mission to Pluto has had many names over these past decades and with concepts “varying on a theme.” It was called Mariner-Jupiter-Pluto (MJP), mini Voyager-Pluto Fast Flyby (PFF), Pluto Express-Pluto-Kuiper Express, and now New Horizons, among many mission names.
For more reading about the saga, science, and significance of Pluto exploration, check out Andrew Lawler, Science 295, 32-36, Jan 4, 2002. “Planetary Science’s Defining Moment.” at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/295/5552/32.full.pdf (requires login access) or find it herefrom the author’ website here.
Pluto Not Yet Explored (lower right) from USPS Stamp Series (1991)