April 17

Honoring the Dreamers

Dear NASA,

I saw the photos of Pluto that have been released by you. At first glance they look unimpressive; a blurry white spot in a dark sky. Read a bit more though and it Blows. My. Mind. The New Horizons spacecraft has been flying toward Pluto FOR 9 YEARS!? There’s a countdown clock on the your site counting down the time until New Horizons gets as close as possible to Pluto on July 14. Thank you for your fortitude in seeing these missions through year after year in pursuit of discovery and science.

I’m part of the Apollo Generation. I was nearly 8 years old and got to stay up late to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. It is something I’ll never forget. Soon after there were pictures of the moon plastered over the bulletin boards in school and the Apollo crew became celebrities; as in people who did something worth celebrating.

Now you’re asking the public to help you name some of the newly discovered features on Pluto. I don’t know how many features you need to name but here’s my suggestion: Ask all of the people who have worked on this project for the past couple of decades to put in a hat (or maybe a spare Apollo helmet you might have lyin’ around) the names of their favorite science teachers. Every time you need to name something, pull out one of their names. Those teachers lit a fire in each one of you that has endured through budget cuts, heartbreaking explosions and failures large and small. Those teachers taught you to dream. They taught you fortitude and curiosity and to believe the impossible might be possible. These discoveries are their legacies as well. Please honor them.