Hi, I am Alan Stern, head of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto, I’m here with five young scientists on the mission. Ask us anything about New Horizons, Pluto, or the Kuiper Belt!
Proof 1: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2874ve0rw3yl6/reddit_proof_pic2.jpg?dl=0 - Our scale model of the New Horizons spacecraft is in the background, and you can compare here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/#.VCyUGvldW2w
Proof 2: https://www.dropbox.com/s/079wz47cyzqpfyg/reddit_proof_photo.jpg?dl=0 - c.f. Alan Stern’s Wiki Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Stern
Hello Reddit. We’re here to answer anything about Pluto and the spacecraft that will flyby Pluto next summer—NASA’s New Horizons. Its closest approach to Pluto will occur on July 14th, 2015, but encounter operations begin well before that, in mid-January!
• Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of New Horizons and postdoctoral researchers:
• Dr. Jason Cook
• Dr. Amanda Zangari
• Dr. Simon Porter
• Dr. Kelsi Singer
• Dr. Alex Parker
Why Is NASA doing this mission? Pluto and its large moon Charon are amazing binary planet system in a new region of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt, which is farther out than even Neptune—3 billion miles away. At the moment the best pictures we have of either from the Hubble Telescope only allow us to see fuzzy blobs of lighter and darker surface material. Humankind is about to get high-resolution pictures and many other kinds of data on Pluto for the first time thanks to New Horizons, and we want everyone to share in our journey of discovery!
Some good Pluto and New Horizons resources to read are:
• Why is Pluto so interesting?
• More about the spacecraft mission – and see a cool new video of Charon orbiting Pluto – taken by the spacecraft http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/
• Countdown to Pluto Encounter! http://www.seeplutonow.com/
• The current best maps of Pluto http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2010/06/
EDIT: We have to head off to meetings to keep the spacecraft on track – but it has been great fun answering all of your questions. We will come back and update you closer to the flyby! Keep up with the discoveries at the websites below, Twitter - @NewHorizons2015, and Tumblr Postcards from Pluto by post-doc Amanda - http://plutopostcards.tumblr.com/.