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Science

Pluto: A Kansas Man's Lasting Legacy

pluto-sign.jpg
Kimberly Fertig
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In less than two weeks, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will finally fly past Pluto. On July 14th, the spacecraft will come closer to the mysterious planet than any other NASA spacecraft. There are at least two Kansas connections to this story. First, you'll recall that President Dwight Eisenhower, from Abilene, started the nation's space program. Commentator Rex Buchanan tells us about the second Kansas connection: Clyde Tombaugh.

It's hard to imagine now, more than 80 years later, just how big of a deal it was when Clyde Tombaugh first spotted Pluto in 1930. In the wake of his discovery, Mickey Mouse named his dog Pluto... and scientists named a radioactive element Plutonium.

You'll likely be hearing more about Pluto in the next two weeks. That's because on July 14th, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will fly right past the icy planet, taking the best pictures of Pluto we've ever seen.

On board that spacecraft, in addition to cameras and special equipment, researchers tucked away a small packet, containing about an ounce of Clyde Tombagh's cremated remains. (Now that's Kansas cool!)

Commentator Rex Buchanan is the interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. He's a regular contributor of our friends at Kansas Public Radio.