The prospects of sending a spacecraft to Pluto look much better now than they did a year or so ago. In fall 2000, NASA stopped work on its Pluto-Kuiper Express mission because of mounting costs (see Physics Today, Physics Today 0031-9228 53

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https://doi.org/10.1063/1.1333287
 November 2000, page 45 ). A few months later, the agency opened the mission to competition, stipulating science goals, a cap of $500 million, and a flyby before 2020.

The turnaround followed outcry by the public and the science community, with the NASA Solar System Exploration Subcommittee’s rating a trip to Pluto as its highest priority. Not going now, proponents argued, would mean having to wait a quarter of a millennium until Pluto again comes close enough to the Sun for the planet’s atmosphere to thaw.

The winning Pluto mission is New Horizons, NASA announced on 29 November. Led by Alan Stern of...

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