Some Albuquerque school kids got a firsthand science lesson Friday, learning from the scientists who worked on the only spacecraft to ever fly to Pluto. 

They also learned about Pluto’s huge New Mexico connection. 

John Spencer and Alice Bowman know a lot about Pluto. They are part of the team that sent the first spacecraft there – the New Horizon.

“We flew past Pluto three years ago and found out what Pluto is really like,” Spencer said.

Friday, they told kids at the Native American Community Academy about their mission. 

“We launched in 2006 and it took us 9.5 years to get to Pluto,” Spencer said.

The kids also learned about the big New Mexico connection. 

“Pluto was discovered in 1930 by a guy called Clyde Tombaugh. He made the discovery in Flagstaff, Arizona, but then spent most of his career in New Mexico,” Spencer said.

Tombaugh taught astronomy at New Mexico State University for many years, and worked at White Sands Missile Range. 

He died there in 1997, but he too was part of the New Horizon Mission to Pluto. Some of his ashes were put on the spacecraft for the flyby. 

For these kids, it was a lesson in science like no other. 

“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” a student said.

Another interesting fact students learned is that the fuel used on the New Horizon spacecraft was made at Los Alamos National Laboratory using plutonium. 

The scientists are taking part in several more presentations at the Natural History Museum, Friday night and Saturday. 

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