The world overlooked Pluto for too long. In the early 1970s, the hope had been to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto with a Grand Tour mission consisting of four spacecraft. But in 1972, the mission was limited to two Voyager ships and Pluto was dropped from the itinerary. Thirty-four years later, Alan Stern rectified that omission when his New Horizons spacecraft was launched Pluto’s way. The spacecraft arrived in 2015, pouring back findings showing Pluto to be a more geologically dynamic place than we suspected. It’s Alan’s tenacity that we have to thank for that knowledge. I was head of Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Alan was working with Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and both of our teams submitted competing bids for the mission. Alan won, and he has taken us to a realm of the solar system we would not now be seeing up close without his commitment and persistence.
Stone is the chief scientist for the Voyager Interstellar Mission