The satisfaction over the New Horizons spacecraft’s close encounter with Pluto as of Tuesday has been a long time in coming – 9 1/2 years since liftoff. The scientific and popular understanding and available imagery of the “dwarf planet” and its moons are about to change forever. The historic moment is even sweeter for Kansas fans of Clyde Tombaugh, who grew up in Burdett in Pawnee County, discovered Pluto in 1930 using the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and later earned degrees from the University of Kansas. How fitting that the New Horizons team thought to send some of Tombaugh’s ashes along with the spacecraft, and to welcome his two children to participate in the excitement Tuesday at the operations center at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. Tombaugh, who once described himself as “a traveler going over the next hill, with an eternal hope,” surely would be pleased by the idea of being part of exploring the outer limits of our solar system. – Rhonda Holman
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