Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Long Day's Journey into Night

The $700 million "New Horizons" robotic spacecraft is now safely on its way to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond. Hurled into space by one of the largest rockets ever built, New Horizons will flash pass the moon in just 9 hours, swing by Jupiter in about 13 months... and yet even at those speeds it will only reach Pluto in July, 2015.

Along with a half ton of scientific instruments, New Horizons also carries 11 kilograms of plutonium for power. (The radioisotope thermoelectric generator draws energy from the heat shed by the slow decay of PuO2. It's not a fission reactor.) Yes, Pluto is so far away that we could not even see it until 75 years ago, and now we are sending it a spacecraft--every inch of which incorporates technology that didn't exist back then--on a decade-long journey powered by a fuel named after the little planet itself!

It's amazing what we can do when we try. And in this age when so many of us are concerned only with the here and now, it is nice to remember that we still find the resources for a dedicated group of people do something like this. May the aptly named "New Horizons" help us all look outside of our little Washingtonian enclaves for a few moments to reflect that our universe is wonderful and mysterious beyond our wildest dreams, and our human race has a long journey yet ahead of it to an unknowable future.

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