Pluto teaching us to reevaluate the universe

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Until 1930, when Clyde Tombaugh discovered it, humans didn’t even know Pluto existed. Just 85 years later, roughly the lifespan of a man, we’re receiving close-up images of the dwarf planet from a technological marvel that traveled 3 billion miles through space across a decade.

Just think of what we might accomplish over the next 85 years. Could men walk on Pluto? Might we colonize other planets? Could we discover life somewhere in the stars? Or even intelligent life?

While these conjectures might seem far-fetched, the idea that in the year 2015 a man-made contraption could zoom across space and send data back to Earth from the farthest reaches of our solar system might have seemed preposterous to Tombaugh. Most of his contemporaries couldn’t even have imagined the birth and utility of computers.

But here we are, awestruck by images of Pluto’s soaring ice mountains, vast canyons and crater-less plains. It’s not what we expected to see; even scientists who’ve studied the dwarf planet are surprised.

Pluto is so far away, so cold (average temperature about 380 degrees below zero), so small (455 Plutos would have the same mass as one Earth) and so different from our world that some would say we can learn nothing from it.

To the contrary, the space that separates Pluto from Earth, literally and figuratively, positions it to teach us the extraordinary.

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