Tuesday 14 July 2015

Encountering Pluto

It's been a long wait for the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and its system, but what's nine years between friends? At the risk of sounding all Star Trek about it, every successful space mission sending robots to skim, orbit, or land on astronomical bodies are stupendous technical achievements that mark our growing capabilities. They are also important moments in securing our species collective futures. While one should be weary of science fiction that sees space as an escape from the environmental degradation the reckless pursuit of profit is bequeathing future generations, our long-term survival ultimately demands expanding beyond the atmosphere into the cosmos - climate change or no climate change.

That said, no other body in the Sun's family of worlds you'd describe as a des res without significant colonisation and industrialisation. Pluto definitely isn't. A freezing orange-tinged ball of rock and ice wrapped in a coating of sublimating nitrogen, in the far future it may become an extreme holiday destination or staging post for further missions into the Kuiper Belt and interstellar space. It's unlikely to be overburdened with mineral riches, however, and for the remainder of our life times is likely to be little more than a scientific curio. It could be a very long time before another probe swings in for a visit. That's a shame.

Nevertheless, let us glory in the most detailed image so far released by NASA of this tiny world and read into it the possible futures waiting to mark its surface.


Robert said...

Man is never going out into space; the distances are too immense. We've only got one planet to live on and need to take better care of it.

asquith said...

"I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism"

Even as an agnostic the above makes sense.

Gary Elsby said...

Take me to your Leader.

Take me to Jeremy.