The Planetary Society

65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301 (626) 793-5100

Fax (626) 793-5528 E-mail: Web:

Contact: Susan Lendroth

The Planetary Society urges Congress to provide additional funds for the
Pluto mission to enable NASA to continue the entire Outer Planets
Program. The Society’s campaign to save the Pluto-Kuiper Express has
generated messages from Society members throughout the United
States to their congressional representatives supporting the 2004 launch,
which was scheduled to arrive in 2012.

Last week, NASA issued the Jet Propulsion Laboratory a stop work order on
the Pluto mission and directed engineers to develop a cheaper design that
might explore Pluto by 2020. The 2004 launch will be the last opportunity
for more than a decade to take advantage of the Jupiter gravity assist
needed to reach this mysterious outpost of our solar system.

“Pluto is the only planet in the solar system not yet explored by
spacecraft,” said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary
Society. “Speculations abound about whether it’s part of a double planet
with its companion Charon, a burnt out comet or large asteroid, or even a
planet in its own right.”

The Society launched a campaign in July to urge its 100,000 members and the
interested public to take immediate action asking Congress to forestall any
attempt to cancel the mission. Individuals can still log into The
Planetary Society’s web site at for more information
and to directly contact their members of Congress.

“Although Pluto will still be there in 2020, scientists are not sure that
its atmosphere will be,” said Friedman. “Many believe the thin atmosphere
will freeze to the surface as the planet’s orbit moves further away from
the Sun, with the next thaw occurring over 200 years from now, around 2230.”

NASA delayed the Europa orbiter — from a 2004 launch to 2006 or 2007 —
because of technical concerns. The Europa orbiter requires new technology
for power and radiation-hard electronic components. However, canceling
the Pluto mission would not be because of technical reasons. It would be a
budgetary decision.

The Planetary Society strongly believes that both the Europa orbiter and
the Pluto mission should be launched (as well as a solar probe also planned
for the Outer Planets Exploration program). Reasonable financial resources
exist in the U.S. to fund all these missions during the time period of

“A modest increase in the NASA budget — say 2% — would solve the funding
problem for the Outer Planets program,” said Friedman.

The Planetary Society’s campaign has demonstrated to Congress the public’s
support of this mission to complete the reconnaissance of all nine planets
in our solar system. The society urges NASA to resume its own support of a
Pluto launch in 2004.



For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Susan
Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext. 214 or by e-mail at


Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society
in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
countries, the Society is the largest space interest
group in the world.

The Planetary Society

65 N. Catalina Ave.

Pasadena, CA 91106-2301

Tel: (626) 793-5100

Fax: (626) 793-5528