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.”
7. A U.S. Flag.
8. Another version of a U.S. Flag.
9. The 1991 U.S. stamp proclaiming, “Pluto: Not Yet Explored”
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:
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.
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 the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.