While the demotion of Pluto to the status of "dwarf planet" makes perfect sense to some scientists and outrages others, it also provides teachers around the world a wonderful opportunity to engage students in lively discussions that will expose them to astronomy, scientific debate and the very strange nature of the outer solar system.
NASA wants to put the outer planets within reach of budget-constrained space missions by making available a new type of radioisotope power system capable of cranking out abundant, long-lasting electrical power at a fraction of the cost of today's plutonium-fueled spacecraft batteries.
A NASA probe traveling to Pluto will hit the accelerator in February when it flies past the planetary giant Jupiter.
The International Astronomical Union has officially christened Pluto's two newest satellites Nix and Hydra.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is being readied for a January liftoff to the outer reaches of the solar system. It will be humanity's first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt — a vast and distant repository of the solar system's leftover building materials — and is expected to reap rich scientific rewards.
A strike by Boeing machinists that began Nov. 2 has forced one U.S. government launch to be scrapped until early next year, put two other launches on indefinite hold and sparked a war of words over a fourth launch that is proceeding with Boeing union and non union launch teams.