Passport to Pluto

By Phil Plait | January 13, 2006 10:32 am

My old buddy Dan Durda just informed me that a TV show about Pluto will air on January 15th (and many times after) on the Discovery Science Channel. It’s called "Passport to Pluto" and will feature lots of info about the "planet" including up-to-the-minute news on the New Horizons mission, the probe that will be launched to Pluto (hopefully) on January 17.

Besides being a top-notch researcher, Dan is an accomplished space artist; he painted that image above. Some of his artwork about Pluto will be featured in the TV show. I’m really looking forward to seeing it; Geoffrey Haines-Stile is the producer of the show, and his stuff is generally of excellent quality (maybe you’ve heard of "Cosmos"…).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (27)

  1. Cindy

    Thanks for the heads up, Phil.

    I hope the New Horizons mission does launch successfully. Will be nice in a few years to hear more information about Pluto.

  2. As long as we’re giving “heads-up”, here’s a link to the Stardust mission that is supposed to re-enter at just before 10 AM UCT Sunday (that’s just before 5 AM EST and 2 AM PST). People on the west coast should be able to see it, presuming it’s not overcast and raining. Phil, you’re just about right under the ground track!

    My only concerns are:

    1) They’re going to try to snag this one at night (?!), and

    2) This RB was built by the same people who made the Genisis RB that plopped into the Utah desert last year. I hope they got the g-switch in the right way this time :-)

    – Jack

  3. Richard Board

    If the Pluto mission spacecraft launches as planned, what is the expected rendevous date for arrival at Pluto? That will be amazing. I can’t wait to see the closeup pictures. Will there be any flybys of other outer planets on the way? Thanks for the info. I’m looking forward to this weekend’s Stardust re-entry as well. Ain’t technology great?! Enjoy.

  4. The Supreme Canuck

    So. If only “hangers-on” stick around this website, why are you here?

  5. Speaking as someone who cares – and not hiding behind anonymous baloney. I’m very glad this mission is being attempted. So far the space age seems alive, if somewhat out of breath. Besides, the French, the Canadians, the Russians, the Japanese and now the Chinese (among many others) all do space science. If the American space program and America went away tomorrow space science would continue. If the American Space program and America continue, space science will continue. The mission to Pluto is proof that the space age goes on. Cassini proves the space age is working. Building and improving human knowledge is reward enough. But the robotic space missions also provide improved technology that saves lives on good old Terra Firma.

    The link provided in your anonymous ID is the real disservice to humanity.


  6. Ryan

    Hello, “The Real Bad Astronomer.”

    If you want to see people in space, watch Star Wars again.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us will recognize that instruments are perfectly good at amassing scientific data.

  7. The Supreme Canuck

    Oh, just a note to all comers: my previous post refers to another post that seems to have been removed. I’m not addressing Richard Board’s post.

  8. Yes, again, it was from a troll. I delete those when I find them.

  9. Evolving Squid

    Canada is kind of forced to do a certain amount of space science since we have vast distances to communicate over with almost no people in them. This is a different motivator than, say, the US where the CONUS is well populated more or less across the board.

    Consequently, it behooves Canada to have a certain mastery of satellite technology and space technology in general. I’ve often been surprised, however, that Canada hasn’t spent a lot of time working on its own launch vehicles.

  10. Canada is nice, but not for a whole weekend :-)

  11. Michelle Rochon

    It’s on days like this that I curse my lack of cable. But then again, I didn’t watch lots of TV. :) Getting my news on the net or on the radio, and the TV is plugged on my Playstation 2 permanently.

    And wow. Mr. Durda is REALLY good at art. I wish I knew his technique! Does he do this in Photoshop??? :O

  12. Marcus

    Thanks for the info! Being a science teacher who teaches astronomy to 8th graders, this should help me to answer a lot of questions about Pluto in a more effective way. Thanks again.

  13. On his webpage Dan Durda say that one of his hobbies is painting, so I assume it his paintings are done on canvas using oil or acrylic paint.

  14. Troy

    I’m excited about the new Pluto mission. I suppose it is too bad neither Uranus or Neptune is in position to be revisited enroute. I wonder if an asteroid encounter will be possible? (It used to be nasa policy to visit an asteroid during any pass through the asteroid belt). Tombaugh would have been a better name for the mission, it doesn’t roll off the tongue like the Italian names Galileo and Cassini but in a way the Pluto discovery required a lot more tenacity not to mention keen observation skills. Getting to the moon in 9 hours is pretty amazing in itself. I don’t hear too much anymore about the postage stamp in the 90s “Pluto: Not yet explored” that inspired the mission. I’m glad they kept it basic and light weight. The mission should shed a lot of light on the nature of the Kupier belt objects. Hopefully, it can launch in the very slender launch window that allows a Jupiter flyby.
    Best wishes to the New Horizons team.

  15. Has anybody found out why the spaceprobe to Pluto is called New Horizons? A far more appropriate name would be the Clyde Tombaugh, after Pluto’s discoverer. The ESA names their probes for the astronomy pioneers tied in with their probes destinations. The USA should do likewise.

    Tom Reesor

  16. Will this New Horizon solar-system probe ever see the Orrt Cloud? Following the semi-colon is a small paste;

    In 2004, the discovery of an object known as 2003 VB12 “Sedna” was announced. Its orbit is intermediate between the Kuiper Belt and what was previously thought to be the inner part of the Oort Cloud. Perhaps this object is the first of a new class of “inner Oort Cloud” objects. end of paste

    Has the Orrt Cloud ever been photographed?

  17. That word “Oort” is so hard to spell. Please forgive my spelling errors in previous post. I have added the word Oort to my spelling dictionary.

  18. Tom Brown

    I’m glad the probe is being launched to the “last” of the traditionally recognized planets. Of course, with a July 2015 Pluto Charon encounter, I may not make it to see the data [I’m not that young]. But I’m glad we’re doing it anyway. So far I haven’t heard the anticipated cries from the naysayers about how a launch accident would cause a “world wide nuclear catastrophie” as they claimed about virtually every flight to the outer planets, I can remember, but I assume they haven’t gone away.

  19. Tom Reesor, some time ago I was reading an interesting story about how New Horizons got its name:

    P.s.: it is pathetic how you Americans and Brits struggle with Dutch names. First it was pronouncing (Huygens), now it is spelling (Kupier instead of Kuiper, Orrt instead of Oort…. :-)

  20. Russell W. Coover

    It would have been nice if the “heads up” had included the time the program will available. Because the Science Channel schedule is not published locally, I had to do a bit of research, but I finally determined that “Passport to Pluto” can be viewed at 6:00 PM or 9:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. For those of you on the US East Coast that cannot figure this out, that is 9:00 PM Sunday or Midnight Monday Morning.

  21. Actually, Russell the link to the Science Channel right under the picture in my entry is a page that lists the times it airs.

  22. PK

    Hear hear, Jacco! ūüėÄ

  23. Definitely looking forward to a close up look at Pluto and its companions, and maybe a[nother?] KBO. On the revisit front, I understand there’s Neptune orbiter in the works. But not Uranus? Is there something particularly boring about Uranus?

  24. Jacco, if you include the scandinavien languages as well, then Hear Hear! from me as well ūüėČ

    Bj√ɬ∂rk isn’t pronounced Bjork, it shouldn’t be pronounced at all.

  25. RAF

    I just got around to reading this and guess what…it’s “repeating” right now…[i]cool[/i]…

  26. It was an interesting show. I’m glad they spent time explaining how the instruments work. I couldn’t watch the whole thing (it’s been a while since I could sit and watch an hour long show with interruptions!)… did they go over the idea that Pluto isn’t a planet?

  27. Jim

    Can anyone find out when/ if it will be replayed in Feb?


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