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The Moon is Not The Farthest Place a Human Has Been


Part of the promotion around the recent Artemis I launch has been that the Orion capsule is the farthest any spacecraft designed for humans has traveled. But actual humans have traveled much farther than the far side of the moon—or parts of them, anyway.

The New Horizons space problem mission launched in 2006 and did a “fly by” of the planetoid Pluto in 2015. Aboard the craft, which was barely the size of a grand piano, was a tiny metal capsule containing one ounce of the ashes of the man who had first spotted the planet decades earlier.

Clyde Tombaugh was only a twenty-four year old, amateur photographer working at the Lowell Observatory when he first discerned that the theorized “Planet X” which seemed to effect both Uranus and Neptune, was in fact a real astronomical body. Dubbed Pluto in 1930, it was long considered the ninth planet in our solar system, though it is of similar size and characteristics to other minor planetoids in the neighborhood.

Still, when New Horizons’s fly by was designed, it seemed only fitting to put aboard a memento from the man whose discovery changed the way we see the solar system. Tombaugh passed away in 1997, after a lifetime of being, as one biographer called him “one of the last old-style, freeze-your-tail-off observers.” His service to NASA and humanity will never be forgotten, even as his remains head out beyond the Kuiper belt and into space unknown.

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