Nearly 200 Cornell students and faculty members gathered in Schwartz Auditorium Wednesday, to hear Cathy Olkin and Ann Harch — two lead scientists on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto this July — give one of the earliest public presentations about the mission’s history and results. Olkin began the talk by emphasizing the necessity of flying a spacecraft by Pluto, rather than simply observing the dwarf planet from Earth. “This was the best image we had of Pluto at the beginning of this year,” she said, showing a picture of a pixelated white dot. “I spent decades studying this point of light.”
According to Harch, even though New Horizons passed by Pluto quickly, it was able to take pictures, determine the composition of the planet’s surface and atmosphere and gather data about its moons. However, getting New Horizons to Pluto was not easy.