Onward Unto Pluto!
Hello, this is Dr. Harry Spangler, and I'm here from NASA to tell you all a little bit about the ninth stone from the sun, the tiny frozen world of Pluto. You've probably been reading about Pluto in the news lately; how America has successfully launched the fastest starship ever built, a craft known as 'New Horizons', into the vast and starry sky on a ten year mission to the glorious arctic world.
Since Pluto is a relatively recent discovery in our solar system, many people believe that the planet was named after Mickey's dog (an idea encouraged by Disney himself in the classic short 'Mouse with a Telescope'). Such is not the case. In reality, Pluto was named after the Roman god of the Underworld. Now I know what you're thinking: the Underworld is Hell! Why on earth would we want to go there?
That's a good question, but it's based on a faulty premise. Hell is a Christian concept whereas the Underworld goes back to the days when the earth was a lot more hollow than it is today. You see, after the Gods defeated the Titans, Pluto and his two brothers Zeus and Neptune drew lots to divide up the universe. Well, we all know who got lucky, don't we? Zeus got the surface of Earth and all the heavens, Neptune got the oceans and that cool fork he carries around with him, and Pluto got the dirt and dark and all of the dead. Perhaps you ask again - Why would we want to go there?
Because it's not as bad as it sounds. As well as the darkness, Pluto was also the god of wealth. Makes sense, doesn't it, since the underground is where all the gold and diamonds and truffles are. And Pluto was also the god of Fertility, which let me tell you, is a duty not without it's perks. Six months out of the year he had Zeus's daughter Persephone, the goddess of Fertility, as his very special underground guest, and between these two fertile deities, the earth got spring and summer. Still not convinced that we should go to Pluto? All right then, try this one on for size. Pluto also had an invisibility helmet that he would wear every time he went to earth! How cool is that?
Well, enough about the god Pluto, let's talk about the planet. Pluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 while he was looking for Planet X. Sure, I know what you're thinking - was Pluto the same thing as Planet X? The short and least boring answer is 'no'.
Here's a funny story while we're on the subject. You know what's in the cargo bay on the New Horizon, making it's way towards that icy orb? Ashes from the cremation of Clyde Tombaugh, that's what. His 93 year old widow was at the launch, and I guess she thought that would be a nice thing to do for him. The funny thing, though, is that old Clyde never in his life expressed the slightest desire to go to Pluto. Heh heh. You think we scientists are wacky, you should meet our wives.
So if even Clyde Tombaugh didn't want to go to Pluto, why does NASA? Why wouldn't we would be a better question. Because It Is There, is one good answer. Because nobody has ever done it before and Americans should do it first, is another. Because of the explosion of knowledge which the journey shall bring. Because of the Mi-go and of Shub-Niggurath, of which we shall not speak. Because we had an extra seven hundred million bucks in our budget, even after bonuses. And because of the enormous job security you get with any 10+ year mission.
I'm Dr. Harry Spangler, and I'll be back soon with more news and trivia about our frozen friend, the planet Pluto.
©2006, Mark Hoback