One Very Special Man's Ashes Fly by Pluto Tomorrow

It's a final wish come true for discoverer Clyde Tombaugh
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2015 5:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 13, 2015 6:00 AM CDT
One Very Special Man's Ashes Fly by Pluto Tomorrow
In this 1931 file photo, Clyde Tombaugh poses with the telescope through which he discovered the Pluto at the Lowell Observatory on Observatory Hill in Flagstaff, Ariz.   (AP Photo)

On Feb. 18, 1930, a young astronomer poring over a series of images of the sky, taken from a telescope at Arizona's Lowell Observatory, spotted movement among some 150,000 stars, reports Tomorrow, Clyde Tombaugh—whose last wish before his death in 1997 was for his ashes to be sent to space—will fly by the dwarf planet he found that day, reports the Telegraph. Aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft heading for Pluto is an ounce of his ashes in a 2-inch aluminum capsule on the upper deck. The capsule reads in part, per "Interred herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system's 'third zone,'" which refers to the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, reports Universe Today. It's one of nine items on board the spacecraft that'll fly within 7,800 miles of Pluto's surface at 7:49am EDT tomorrow, before zipping within 17,930 miles of its moon, Charon, at 8:03am.

At New Horizons' launch in 2006, the nine items represented Pluto's status as the ninth planet in the solar system, though Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, or asteroid No. 134340, seven months later. Also on board are two US flags; a 1991 US postage stamp declaring "Pluto Not Yet Explored;" two state quarters from Florida, home of the launch site, and Maryland, home of the operation's control center; a cutout of private space plane SpaceShipOne; and two CDs. One contains the names of 434,738 people who signed up to be included in the mission; the other holds photos of the New Horizons team. Speaking of photos, the team promises images of Pluto and its moons captured by New Horizons tomorrow will "knock your socks off." They'll likely be shared publicly on Wednesday. Can't wait until then? Tune in to the live broadcast of the flyby on NASA TV. (Can you find the doughnut in this Pluto photo?)

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