The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301
(626) 793-5100 Fax (626) 793-5528
Contact: Susan Lendroth

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Bill Nye the Science Guy will headline
a free Planetary Society event, “The Science and Romance of Pluto,” at the
Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC on February 1, 2001. The special
presentation, co-sponsored by the Carnegie Institution, will also feature
Neil de Grasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium; Alan Stern of the
Southwest Research Institute; and Wesley Huntress of the Carnegie
Institution and Vice-President of The Planetary Society as moderator.

“The Science and Romance of Pluto” will address the scientific rationale
and technical challenges of a Pluto mission, as well as our human need to
explore. Scientists support a mission to this last unexplored planet of our
solar system because Pluto and the Kuiper Belt hold keys to the solar
system’s origin.

The Planetary Society has been campaigning for a Pluto mission ever since
work on NASA’s Pluto Kuiper Express mission was stopped in September, 2000.
Since then, the Society has delivered to Congress thousands of pieces of
mail from the public in support of launching a Pluto mission in the near
future. Thousands more messages of support came from users of the internet,
who saw the Society’s campaign on the world wide web,

Some scientists believe the thin atmosphere of Pluto will freeze to the
surface as the planet moves in its orbit further from the Sun, with the
next thaw occurring over 200 years from now, around 2230. The longer the
mission is delayed, the more likely it will be that the mission will lose
the opportunity to study Pluto’s atmosphere.

The outpouring of public support has not been unnoticed. In December, 2000,
NASA issued an Announcement of Opportunity for principal investigators and
institutions to submit proposals for a new mission to Pluto.

“The scientific interest in the planet is not the only reason Pluto has
captured the imaginations of scientists and the public alike,” said Louis
Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. “Exploring the far
reaches of space touches on the romance of distant outposts, the challenge
of the unknown, and our restless quest to journey beyond known boundaries.”

“The Science and Romance of Pluto” will feature a panel that includes both
leaders and communicators of scientific exploration who are helping to
provide scientific and public support for a Pluto mission. They will
examine the concept of a Pluto mission from the many perspectives of their
varied backgrounds. Huntress, Tyson and Nye are members of the Society’s
Board of Directors, and Aldrin is a member of its Advisory Council.

The public is invited to attend “The Science and Romance of Pluto” from
7:00 to 9:00 PM, Thursday, February 1 at the Carnegie Institution, Root
Hall, 1530 P Street NW, Washington, DC. Doors will open at 6:00 PM.