More here on Pluto

Whether you think that Pluto is a Kuyper Belt Object (or a planet) is your affair. Some feel that a mission to explore Pluto’s oceans should be a much higher priority than it is now. But if Pluto is to receive robotic landers, it will be beyond 2050 because of limited resources and the difficulties of putting a spacecraft on the ground – on Pluto.

The sand dunes of Pluto (scientists have determined) are comprised of methane granules that are blown into drifts by the wind on Pluto.

It’s an exotic place. I think that there is much to be learned.



  1. Cold and dark all the time, but a great argument for figuring out how to accelerate half way there and apply brakes for the second half of the trip – or something like that to cut travel time down.

    To quote Douglas Adams from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

    • The time it takes to get messages back and forth to robots on Pluto is one (of the smaller) barriers to sending a lander. The other is making sense of what the lander “sees” and senses, since it’s all well beyond our experience to date. I like the idea of sending two or three landers at the same time, but they would need to be nuclear powered (small nuclear generator like the one that flew on Cassini) since there is very little available sunlight.

      If all that happens, it will happen long after I’m gone.

  2. Musk and SpaceX have talked about using the pre-Starship BFR as an interplanetary ship, and one of the proposed missions was to Pluto, either manned or unmanned, to see what commercially viable compounds may be available on the planet.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if it was still on the books as a what-if scenario.

    Now, consider a NERVA powered Starship. One module consisting of the NERVA, on top of that 1 central fuel core with exterior inflatable bladders or drop tanks, and on top of the stack a Starship. That would get the whole assembly out to Pluto in decent time.

    • Even if humans didn’t set foot on Pluto, there is a great deal to be gained about locally controlled robotics with a return to orbiting manned laboratory. However as with Mars, which is much closer, there are so many things that can go wrong and jeopardize human life.

      • And, surprisingly enough, there is a limit to being nanny-careful. Exploration is inherently dangerous, and so is field research. But it is when exploring and pushing the frontier that we as mankind shine the brightest.

        I wouldn’t do it, simply because I can’t handle anything weirder than a merry-go-round. Zero-G would not be my friend at all. But if my inner-ear was good? Sure. Why not.

        We can live safely in our quiet lives and sleep in our snug beds. Or we can push the edges of the world. Some, like you, LL, do it by entering the Military. And some in the military, like you, LL, push the boundaries by joining combat arms, and then push the boundaries by joining various special forces or units. Others will explore or work on and in the sea. Still others dream of working in space and on planets and satellites (both man-made and planetary satellites.)

        Much can go wrong. Just like homesteading in the mountains of Arizona, or Alaska, or anywhere outside an urban or suburban environment. But people who survive and thrive on the edges enjoy the living heck out of it and wouldn’t ever turn back, or if they do (due to ill health or such) regret it to their dying days. Those who fail and survive can go back to their more-safe jobs in their urban and suburban environments.

        Now purposefully making it more difficult to survive, like NASA did with the whole shuttle program (ice strikes on tiles were a known problem from Day1, and only got extraordinarily worse when the main tank foam was changed from a Freon-based one to a more environmentally-friendly one. Or the lack of material and clean-standards that made Apollo 1 a known lemon before it murdered 3 of our astronauts.

        SpaceX seems to get the concept of clean and safe design. Boeing? Not so much.

        • Boeing is part of old aerospace. SpaceX is new aerospace.

          I remember sitting on the porch of a fancy hotel in Phnom Penh with a pretty local girl, and a Swedish K across my lap. Year of the dog. Did her doggy style in honor of the year, then back to the table on the broad, covered porch, watching kids riding Coca Cola trucks out of town to get killed. And I asked myself where I saw myself in five years. So I changed things and the Navy paid off with Postgraduate school. What a change. But I could only do civilized for so long. I missed the juice.

          Now a flight to Pluto if I was young and fit again, 100% go for launch. I’m crazy like that, Beans.

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