This object is a stowaway on board New Horizons.  Credit:  JHU/APL
This object is a stowaway on board New Horizons. Credit: JHU/APL

Missions, New Horizons, Pluto

Did You Know There are 9 Secret Items Hidden on Pluto’s New Horizons Mission?

11 Jan , 2015 by

The New Horizons spacecraft is now just a few months away from its encounter with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, arriving in July, 2015. Back in 2008, the New Horizons team revealed the secret stowaways they had hidden on board the spacecraft. Nine objects (can you guess why there are nine?!) were attached and sent along on the ten-year journey to the outer reaches of our Solar System. Believe it or not, included in the items are one actual person, and parts of several thousands of other people…

Here’s the complete list:

1. One actual person. Well, part of an actual person. A portion of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes were put in a container and attached to the underside of the spacecraft – see image above. Here’s the inscription on the container: “Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s ‘third zone’ Adelle and Muron’s boy, Patricia’s husband, Annette and Alden’s father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde W. Tombaugh (1906-1997).”

2. Me and about 434,000 other people, too! The “Send Your Name to Pluto” CD-ROM with more than over four hundred thousand names of people who wanted to participate in this great journey of exploration. I’m pumped about being along for the ride, and I hope you are on board, too!

3. A CD-ROM with pictures of New Horizons project personnel.

4. A Florida state quarter, from the state where New Horizons was launched.

5. A Maryland state quarter, from the state where New Horizons was built.

6. A small piece cut from SpaceShip One is installed on New Horizons’ lower inside deck, with a two-sided inscription. Front: “To commemorate its historic role in the advancement of spaceflight, this piece of SpaceShip One is being flown on another historic spacecraft: New Horizons. New Horizons is Earth’s first mission to Pluto, the farthest known planet in our solar system.” Back: “SpaceShip One was Earth’s first privately funded manned spacecraft. SpaceShip One flew from the United States of America in 2004.”

Piece from SpaceShip One.  Credit: JHU/APL

Piece from SpaceShip One. Credit: JHU/APL

7. A U.S. Flag.

8. Another version of a U.S. Flag.

9. The 1991 U.S. stamp proclaiming, “Pluto: Not Yet Explored”

Pluto US postal stamp from 1991.  Credit:  JHU/APL

Pluto US postal stamp from 1991. Credit: JHU/APL

New Horizons’ principal investigator Dr. Alan Stern disclosed the list of items at a ceremony at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, where a model of the New Horizons spacecraft was added to the museum. Back in 2008, Stern petitioned the U.S. Postal Service to issue a new stamp for Pluto after the spacecraft arrived at Pluto, maybe something like this:

Proposed new stamp for New Horizons.  Credit:  JHU/APL

Proposed new stamp for New Horizons. Credit: JHU/APL

Source: New Horizons website

We originally wrote this in 2008, but we thought you’d get a kick out of it since New Horizons is so close. We made a couple of updates to the text.

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By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Morellio
Member
Morellio
October 27, 2008 2:54 PM

I absolutely love the symbolism and spirit of this. I wish we had such enthusiasm and thoughtfulness in doing other things that have such a great impact on our species.

Marco Fitz
Guest
Marco Fitz
October 27, 2008 4:19 PM

waaaa!!
i couldn’t send my name to Pluto! sad

Hunnter
Member
Hunnter
October 27, 2008 4:35 PM

“Every gram counts.”
Not sure where i heard that now.. but really?

And why a CD? Don’t CDs degrade over time?
2015 is a long way away…
Hopefully they used the discs with increased lifetime to them.

Such a shame someone won’t receive these…

I actually expected something completely different to have been sent with it (something “sciency”)

Vanamonde
Guest
Vanamonde
October 27, 2008 5:50 PM

I just realized, a New Horizons stamp will not deliver a first class letter with an extra 2 cents. Bummer.

Hey – who would want to have such a pretty stamp cancelled anyway?

vagueofgodalming
Member
October 28, 2008 1:28 AM

Anyone know what the two versions of the flag are?

I hope sending the Plutonians a stamp saying “Pluto: not yet explored” doesn’t cause a diplomatic incident: they’re still smarting ovr that whole demotion thing.

And 37c for a letter to Pluto sounds like a bargain.

Ziggy66
Member
Ziggy66
October 27, 2008 6:59 PM

That was aproposed stamp design. I’m sure that an actual stamp, if produced, would have the current postage rate.

Huygens
Guest
Huygens
October 27, 2008 8:28 PM

Why didn’t they put something like the Pioneer Plaques or Voyager Records on New Horizons?

skivee
Member
October 27, 2008 8:46 PM

Huygens, my man, I thought that the Pioneer plagues were cured in the late 1880s; and Voyager records went out of business about 1978 after putting out just two discs.
I could be wrong.

Ringman
Member
October 27, 2008 10:34 PM

“Voyager records went out of business about 1978 after putting out just two discs.”
ROTFL!!!! That’s Hilarious!!!

Shaula Brandt
Member
Shaula Brandt
October 28, 2008 3:16 AM

I am just glad to be there along for the ride, at least in spirit. I am glad to be a part of the 434,000. At least now I know I am traveling to the stars…at least in spirit. My thoughts have always been lost amongst the stars; glad to have all that company along for the ride.

s0l
Guest
s0l
October 28, 2008 3:39 AM

Sending flags and money into space…how human… sad

The Voyager discs were much more relevant imho…

Mags
Guest
Mags
October 28, 2008 4:24 AM

Hey, my name is there too!! And my hubby and sons, and my daughter-in-law. Don’t worry about the junk mail guys.

David M
Guest
David M
October 28, 2008 5:10 AM

Well – Pluto was a planet when New Horizons was launched – but it won’t be when it arrives.

I know what the posters with their names on board mean… mines on there too. I’m sure the CD won’t deteriorate in time – the hard vacum and searing cold will probably prolong it’s life indefinately.

kroosing 2 '42' via '37'
Guest
kroosing 2 '42' via '37'
October 28, 2008 5:53 AM

QUOTE<>

Maybe to send to NGC2169 in Orion while on Pluto?

http://www.siowl.com/scripts/query.php?NGC2169

wink

kroosing 2 '42' via '37'
Guest
kroosing 2 '42' via '37'
October 28, 2008 5:59 AM

trying again:
QUOTE was “And 37c for a letter to Pluto sounds like a bargain”

Maybe to send to NGC2169 in Orion while on Pluto?

http://www.siowl.com/scripts/query.php?NGC2169

wink

cfdibbs
Member
October 28, 2008 6:13 AM

By the time New Horizons gets to Pluto, stamps will be 75 cents.

Huygens
Guest
Huygens
October 28, 2008 6:31 AM
The Voyager Records and the Pioneer Plaques will last for at least 1 billion years, and that is a conservative estimate. In fact, for the records, this refers to the side facing outwards towards space. The side protected by the probe itself will last much longer. With the records, a stylus was included. All one has to do is move the stylus needle through the grooves and the audio portion can be recovered if not the images. Not only will that NOT be possible with the CDs on New Horizons, but cosmic radiation will deteriorate them in a few centuries at most. The space probe, only the fifth ever sent into the galaxy, was treated like some kind… Read more »
gneissgirl
Guest
gneissgirl
October 28, 2008 9:16 AM

And here I thought Pluto had been demoted and was no longer a planet.

MJG
Guest
MJG
October 28, 2008 10:01 AM

They sent CDs along because they figured Plutonians should be sufficiently advanced as to not use turntables anymore.

jerry
Guest
jerry
October 28, 2008 10:03 AM

Sagan is religously optimistic about fate of these little probes – the New Horizon’s team much more pragmatic. What a great tribute to Tombaugh – always the discoverer of the 9th planet.

wpDiscuz