Space Cover #295: Planet Pluto: 1930 to 2015 Bob McLeod
Now speeding toward an encounter with Planet Pluto is the New Horizons spacecraft. Launched on an Atlas V rocket from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force station on January 19, 2006, it will pass by Pluto on July 14, 2015 at 27,000 mph. At that time it will be 3 billion miles from Earth after a lonely 9 and 1/2 year journey. It will be going where no spacecraft has gone before, as it is the first spacecraft to venture to the edge of our solar system with the intention of encountering Pluto.
Discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh on February 18, 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ, Pluto has remained a mysterious and little-known orb to this day. But that should change, as New Horizons should provide a wealth of information about Pluto, including its five known moons, the first of which, Charon, was discovered in 1978 by astronomer James Christy.
The New Horizons spacecraft awoke from its final hibernation on December 6th and then was just over 162 million miles from Pluto. Interestingly, Pluto takes 248 Earth years to orbit our sun.
Above is a cover (top) canceled at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the new Horizons spacecraft. Since its launch back in 2006, Pluto has been demoted to dwarf planet status, but that won't diminish the knowledge gained and the fascination about our solar system's 9th "planet."
The cover below the new Horizon's launch cover is a Copernicus FDC autographed by both the discoverer of Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, and James Christy, the discoverer of its first moon, Charon (the 5th moon discovered, Styx, was discovered by the Hubble Telescope).
From Exploring the Planets Booklet of ten stamps issued in 1991, is a FDC featuring the Planet Pluto stamp.
The bottom cover is a combination anniversary cover and First Day of Issue Cover (FDC). It was first canceled at Flagstaff, AZ on the 50th anniversary of Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto. Then a Pluto stamp was affixed from the 1991 Exploring the Planets booklet and was canceled on its first day of issue. Tombaugh's autograph on the cover makes this an unusual threesome of anniversary, first day of issue and autographed cover.
Certainly, much information will be gained about Pluto in July of 2015, along, hopefully, with many covers created marking this historic encounter.