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Space & Planetary Science

The First Purposefully Multi-generational Space Mission

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
October 17, 2008

Editor’s note: I went over to the Udvar Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum this evening for a reception honoring the New Horizons Mission. Specifically, the reception honored the placing of a high fidelity model of the New Horizons spacecraft in the museum – now suspended from the ceiling, aft of Space Shuttle Enterprise.

During the dedication ceremony, we all learned from PI Alan Stern that the spacecraft was carrying a number of items, some of which had previously not been formally announced: some of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, state quarters from Maryland and Florida, two CDs – one with over 400,000 names – the other with family photos of the New Horizons team, the US postal service stamp from 1991 saying “not yet explored”, a concept design for another stamp noting the New Horizons mission, and a piece of Burt Rutan’s SpaceShip One.

Listening to the various presentations, it was quite clear that this was a family endeavor – as well as an endeavor of families – and generations. The people who worked long hours on this mission needed support from their families – while younger mission personnel are being groomed to be involved in 2015 – and beyond – when New Horizons reaches its prime target – and possibly future targets during extended mission operations. New Horizons is perhaps the first purposefully multi-generational space mission, the twin Voyagers having unexpectedly blazed that trail by virtue of good design and immense ingenuity.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.