Scientists are demanding another mission to dwarf planet Pluto

New Horizons, the first-ever mission to Pluto, was conducted by NASA in 2015, for which scientists had been pushing since the 1980s


For any endeavour to begin, there should be a group of people taking the initiative to get the ball rolling. For instance, the New Horizons, which was NASA's initial mission to far away planets in the solar system gained momentum via letter-writing campaigns that started in the mid-1980s.

As a result, New Horizons, in July 2015, conducted the very first flyby of Pluto and is now gearing up for a close tête-à-tête with an object, dubbed 2014 MU69. Now, another movement, which is going on currently, envisions plan to emulate the same success after all these years with a return mission to Pluto.

New Horizons member Kelsi Singer, based at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado informed that close to three dozen scientists have shown their support for a return mission to Pluto or another similar destination on the Kuiper Belt and have also drafted letters stating the same. Singer is the co-leader of this grassroots campaign.

The letters were directed to NASA planetary science chief Jim Green and chairs of the committees that provide inputs regarding such missions to the space agency. Singer noted, "We need the community to realize that people are interested... We need the community to realize that there are important, unmet goals. And we need the community to realize that this should have a spot somewhere in the Decadal Survey."

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The Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a report which has been released by the National Academy of Sciences, states the country's primary exploration targets for the upcoming years.

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said, "This is the way it normally works....First it bubbles up in the community and then, when there's enough action, the agency starts to get behind it... Then it lets the Decadal Survey sort things out."

Stern has been a pivotal force behind New Horizons since from its early days. Singer informed that she'd be also okay if NASA went back to Pluto once more, "Pluto just has so much going on." Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006 and the demand is on for the restoration of full planet status.

This article was first published on October 29, 2017