New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

PLUTOPALOOZA ABQ NASAs New Horizons Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt: The Epic Voyage of Exploration Continues

August 21, 2018


(Albuquerque, New Mexico) -- 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 New Year’s 2019 flyby of a mysterious and still more distant Kuiper Belt Object nicknamed Ultima Thule.

On Sept. 21- 22, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, students, teachers and members of the public 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 Ultima – officially named 2014 MU69 – which will be the most distant and most unchanged solar system object ever explored! NASA expects the flyby to yield important discoveries about the origin and evolution of the entire solar system.

“Five scientists and engineers from this NASA mission will join us for a high-energy public presentation with a show-and-tell video in the museum’s Dynatheater. Pluto and its discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, hold a special place in the hearts of New Mexicans and this will be an amazing opportunity to share in the excitement of this mission,” said Margie Marino, the museum’s executive director.

PLUTOPALOOZA will be held on Friday, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Special guests include planetary scientists John Spencer and Cathy Olkin, astronomer Con Tsang, and engineer and Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman. This is a one-of-a-kind event! Cost is only $5 per person. Seats are limited and preregistration is encouraged (tickets can be purchased at the door the evening of the event if seats are available). Go to for more information on this event and to register for PLUTOPALOOZA. Questions:  

Following the PLUTOPALOOZA presentation, the audience will have the opportunity for moderated Q&A with the researchers, and a chance to take and share “selfies” in front of giant backdrops of Pluto and Ultima Thule.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, the mission scientists will participate in a NM-PBS Science Café held at NMMNHS and coordinated by New Mexico PBS. Registration for this event is through NM-PBS; contact Rose Poston at for more information.

Also. on Saturday, from 1 – 5pm, NASA educator Shirley Greene and the New Horizons researchers, in association with NMMNHS, will lead a free workshop for formal and informal science educators connecting the amazing results from the Pluto flyby to classroom-ready activities complementing the Next Generation Science Standards and the NM science standards. Visit for more information and contact to register.

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory New Horizons website:

NASA New Horizons website:


About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: Established in 1986, the mission of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is to preserve and interpret the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. The NMMNHS offers exhibitions, programs and workshops in Geoscience, including Paleontology and Mineralogy, Bioscience and Space Science. It is the Southwest’s largest repository for fossils and includes a Planetarium and a large format 3D DynaTheater. A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. 1801 Mountain Road NW, northeast of Historic Old Town Plaza, Albuquerque, NM 87104, (505) 841-2800.  Events, news releases and images about activities at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science and other divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at

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