According to the NASA website, the New Horizons probe will be closest to Pluto in about 12 hours, and there will be live TV coverage. Until then, here’s a column by Charles Krauthammer, an influential Republican columnist and no friend of creationism or intelligent design — see Phony Theory, False Conflict.
Krauthammer has a good column in the Washington Post on Pluto, in which he takes a swipe at creationism: Pluto and us. You’ll want to read it all, so we’ll give you only a few excerpts, with bold font added by us:
We need a pick-me-up. Amid the vandalizing of Palmyra, the imminent extinction of the northern white rhino, the disarray threatening Europe’s most ambitious attempt ever at peaceful unification — amid plague and pestilence and, by God, in the middle of Shark Week — where can humanity turn for uplift? Meet New Horizons, arriving at Pluto on July 14. Small and light, the fastest spacecraft ever launched, it left Earth with such velocity that it shot past our moon in nine hours. A speeding bullet the size of a Steinway, it has flown 9½ years to the outer edges of the solar system.
Typical Darwinist! Instead of descending into mysticism for a pick-me-up, Krauthammer is thinking about Pluto. Why? He explains:
For what? First, for the science, the coming avalanche of new knowledge. Remember: We didn’t even know there was a Pluto until 85 years ago when astronomer Clyde Tombaugh found a strange tiny dot moving across the star field. Today, we still know practically nothing. In fact, two of the five moons were not discovered until after New Horizons was launched. And yet next week we will see an entirely new world come to life. “We’re not planning to rewrite any textbooks,” said principal investigator Alan Stern in a splendid New York Times documentary on the mission. “We’re planning to write them from scratch.”
Then there’s the romance. The Pluto fly-by caps a half-century of solar system exploration that has yielded staggering new wonders. Such as Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, with its vast subterranean ocean under a crust of surface ice, the most inviting potential habitat for extraterrestrial life that human beings will ever reach.
Europa is the most likely habitat for life we’ll ever reach? Let’s read on:
Yes, ever. Promising exoplanets — the ones circling distant stars that we deduce might offer a Goldilocks zone suitable for water-based life — are being discovered by the week. But they are unreachable. The journey to even the nearest would, at New Horizons speed, take 280,000 years. Even mere communication would be absurdly difficult. A single exchange of greetings — “Hi there,” followed by “Back at you, brother” — would take a generation.
Your Curmudgeon is more optimistic, but let’s not get into that. Krauthammer continues:
And for more than just the science, more than just the romance. Here we are, upright bipeds with opposable thumbs, barely down from the trees, until yesterday unable to fly, to communicate at a distance, to reproduce a sound or motion or even an image — and even today barely able to manage the elementary decencies of civilization — taking close-up pictures and chemical readings of a mysterious world 9½ years away.
We told you he took a swipe at the creationists. Here’s one last excerpt:
Every ounce of superfluous weight has been stripped from New Horizons to give it more speed and pack more instruments. Yet there was one concession to poetry. New Horizons is carrying some of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes. After all, he found the dot. Not only will he fly by his netherworldly discovery, notes Carter Emmart of the American Museum of Natural History, he will become the first human being to have his remains carried beyond the solar system.
So there you are. We may have more to say about Pluto tomorrow.
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