Alan Stern's coffee cup. Stern is the principle investigator for NASA's New Horizons mission, which launched in 2006 en route to a historic 2015 Pluto flyby. Credit: Alan Stern

In this episode of the SpaceNews SpaceGeeks podcast, Dan Leone catches up with Alan Stern, principle investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission. Just days ahead of a historic closest approach, the former NASA science boss and perennial man of many hats explains what it’s like to fill in one of the last blank spaces on the map: the never-before-seen-up-close planet/dwarf planet/ice dwarf at the edge of the mysterious and enormous Kuiper belt.

[powerpress url=”″]



Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, speaks during a New Horizons mission briefing, Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Panelists in the briefing discussed the goals, scientific objectives and encounter plans as the New Horizons spacecraft approaches its closest encounter with Pluto on July 14th after traveling more than 3 billion miles since its launch on January 19, 2006. The panelists also discussed the types of images and other data that will be collected during the flyby and when it can be expected. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
This is Alan Stern. Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
This is Alan Stern. Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Official New Horizons mission site.

Alan Stern on Twitter.

Alan’s Wikipedia page, which he didn’t write and doesn’t like on two counts: it “miscasts” the debate on planetary classification (when is a solar system body a planet, and when is it not?) and “simplifies” the hard line he took on budget overruns and political posturing during his one-year stint as NASA’s associate administrator for science from 2007 to 2008.  Some of our coverage of Stern’s NASA tenure can be found here and here.

Super long lecture from Mike “Pluto Killer” Brown, who started all this “dwarf planet” stuff.

Latest New Horizons AMA on Reddit.

A way to check your blood alcohol content before dropping off your kids’ babysitter. During his SpaceGeeks interview, Alan volunteered a “funny story” about the time he got pulled over for a sobriety check while dropping off a babysitter. He hadn’t had a drop to drink.


Dan Leone is a SpaceNews staff writer, covering NASA, NOAA and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public communications from the American University in Washington.