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by Imiloa Astronomy Center on February 28th, 2018

New Horizons: NASA’s Epic Voyage of Exploration to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Continues!

Date: Tuesday, March 6
Presentation time: 12 noon
Where: ‘Imiloa’s Planetarium
Cost: Standard admission prices apply

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto and its moons at 31,000 miles per hour. That day some 1.7 billion mentions of New Horizons sped across the Internet and social media, evidence of worldwide interest in this first mission to the last planet of the classical solar system. Now, the epic voyage of exploration continues with a planned January 1st 2019 flyby of a mysterious and still more distant Kuiper Belt Object known as “MU69.” And astronomical observatories in Hawai‘i have played an important role in the success of the mission, with NASA and New Horizons researchers visiting many times, over many years, to study the outer edges of our solar system.


Now, on Tuesday, March 6th, students, teachers and the general public on Hawai‘i Island will have the opportunity to hear directly from key members of the New Horizons team in fast-paced multimedia presentations featuring the stunning images and science gathered during the Pluto flyby. HD video illuminates key mission milestones, including a preview of New Horizons’ next encounter – a flight past MU69, which promises to be the most distant and most unchanged solar system object ever explored! NASA hopes that the flyby will provide important new discoveries about the origin and evolution of the entire solar system.

On hand to share both the science and gripping, behind-the-scenes personal stories of the mission will be:

MARC BUIE, New Horizons Investigator, SwRI

Marc Buie is a New Horizons Investigator, currently working at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Pluto has been a major focus of Marc’s research since 1983, and he was a founding member of the so-called “Pluto Underground” that promoted America’s first mission to the 9th planet starting in 1989. Marc spent many years at the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was first discovered in 1930. More recently he spent ten years searching for a Kuiper Belt Object that New Horizons might fly on to after the Pluto encounter. Marc was the first to spot this elusive body in 2014, now known as “MU69,” using the Hubble Space Telescope, and has directed a large effort to understand this distant, cold and tiny world. He also has a project ( that is enlisting students to help measure the sizes of other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Says Marc, “I may be thin-blooded transplant from Louisiana but my imagination always runs away with me when thinking about the super cold and complex environments on Pluto and elsewhere in the Kuiper Belt.”


ALICE BOWMAN, Mission Operations Manager, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Alice Bowman works for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where she is the Mission Operations Manager—or “MOM”—for NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made the first visit to Pluto in 2015. She leads the team that controls the spacecraft, now about 3.7 billion miles from Earth. Her love of space exploration started as a child saving newspaper clippings of the Moon landing and other planetary visits. After studying physics and chemistry at the University of Virginia, Alice joined the California Institute of Technology, where she developed tumor-targeting micelles, which have successfully been used to treat cancer and fungal infections; programmed computer simulations to study how explosions affect soil compression and wave propagation; and developed silicon-based semiconductors that detected infrared waves emitted by cruise missiles and stars. From there, Bowman was a satellite technical advisor to U.S. Space Command, advising the agency on various infrared-signature detections. She joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 1997, and has served on various spacecraft teams such as the Midcourse Space Experiment and CONTOUR, in addition to New Horizons. In her time away from work, she and her husband lead a community jam session twice a month and play in a bluegrass band.


VERONICA BRAY, Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Dr. Veronica Bray started her research at University College London, measuring lava flows on Venus. She completed her PhD at Imperial College London studying comet impacts into Europa using both observations and computer modeling. She is now a science team member on a number of missions to rocky and icy worlds all over the solar system: LROC (the Moon), HiRISE (Mars), Cassini (Saturn system) and New Horizons. In addition to her specialty of impact cratering, Veronica brings expertise in “comparative planetology” to the Geology and Geophysics section of the New Horizons team. Veronica continues the theme of hard-hitting, fast moving projectiles in her hobbies: she is an archer and metal/rock drummer! She is a targeting specialist for HiRISE on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and is also an adjunct lecturer of astrobiology.


RANDY MONROE, Middle School Science Teacher and son of Charlene, after whom Pluto’s giant moon Charon is named.
James R. (Randy) Monroe has spent his science teaching career embedding and integrating cutting-edge science technologies and techniques into processes and topics covered through a standardized Earth, Life and Physical Science curriculum. Monroe has a BA from California State University East Bay (CSUEB), a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from CSUEB, and a Master’s of Science in Technology Leadership. He served on the Contra Costa Math & Science Teachers Association Board, and recently on the committee for the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) developing the new test for prospective teachers in Earth & Planetary Science. Employed by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District since 2001, he teaches middle school Earth, Life & Physical Science at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, California. He is a longtime member of the New Horizon Education Team. Monroe’s step-father, James Christy, discovered Pluto’s largest moon Charon in 1978, named after Monroe’s mother Charlene. Through his fascination with hydrothermal vent ecology, Monroe became adjunct faculty at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in the Microbial Ecology Program, and has also worked through Industrial Initiatives for Science and Math Educators (IISME) at Lockheed Martin as a Systems Engineer in missile defense studying infrared technologies.


KERRI BEISSER, Program Manager for the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  

Kerri Beisser, is a member of the Lab’s Senior Professional Staff. Before coming to APL, Ms. Beisser worked for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, where she was the Project Manager for national programs for NASA’s Cassini, STARDUST and Galileo missions. She also worked for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Here she conducted student and teacher training in the history of the space program and in the fields of aerospace, engineering, technology, and space station/space shuttle activities. She also led corporate training programs and special events for Space Camp, such as training the cast of the movie Apollo 13. Since joining APL in 1999 in the Space Department, Ms. Beisser has managed the education and public outreach programs and the engagement and communications program for NASA missions from the Sun to Pluto and beyond. These have included the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, the NASA “Vision Mission” Innovative Interstellar Probe, the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission, for the Solar-TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission (RBSP). Currently, she is managing the engagement and communications programs for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and the Parker Solar Probe Plus mission, slated to launch in July 2018.

Come early to explore ‘Imiloa’s exhibits! The speakers will be in the exhibit hall at 11am prior to their presentation.

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