New Horizons Unmanned Spaceflight

Pluto 350

Pluto 350Encouraged by the public interest in Voyager 2’s recent visit to Neptune, scientist Robert Farquhar and graduate student Alan Stern pitch a concept for a compact mission, using hardware derived from the Voyager program, to the planet Pluto. Named Pluto 350, for the 350-kilogram upper weight limit decided on as a feasible and affordable launch weight, their proposed mission would launch in November 2001, have a close encounter with asteroid 1442 Corvina in 2002, then a return to Earth to catch a gravity assist in 2005, with a further gravity assist at Jupiter boosting Pluto 350 to its final target in 2015. In addition to pitching this plan to NASA, Farquhar and Stern appeal to the public by publishing a detailed six-page mission plan in the pages of the Planetary Society’s newsletter. However, a tendency toward larger spacecraft – such as the Mariner Mark II architecture envisioned for the upcoming Cassini and CRAF missions – means that Pluto 350 is not given serious consideration by NASA.