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NASA’s New Horizons Mission Leader to Speak Tonight in Flagstaff


The principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission will give the keynote speech at tonight’s opening events for the Flagstaff Festival of Science.

Alan Stern will discuss the latest Pluto discoveries and the inside story of the New Horizons mission at tonight’s lecture at Northern Arizona University.

He says the spacecraft is still sending data from the July encounter to Earth. “But every time we get new data, we are dumbstruck by how complicated and beautiful Pluto is.”

Stern says Pluto shows signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists didn’t expect. If funding is approved for an extended mission, New Horizons will visit an object in the Kuiper Belt in 2019. It’s a region of the solar system that’s never been explored by spacecraft.  

“It’s really about a voyage backward in time, by going to this place to see something that was formed 4.5 billion years ago and probably hasn’t evolved very much,” Stern says.  

The Festival of Science begins tonight and will continue through September 27.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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