A white paper on pluto follow on missions: Background, rationale, and new mission recommendations

Richard Binzel, Will Grundy, Doug Hamilton, Rosaly Lopes, Bill McKinnon, Cathy Olkin, Stuart Robbins, Alan Stern, Caitlin Ahrens, Michelle T. Bannister, Tanguy Bertrand, Ross Beyer, Maitrayee Bose, Paul Byrne, Robert Chancia, Dale Cruikshank, Rajani Dhingra, Cynthia Dinwiddie, David Dunham, Alissa EarleChristopher Glein, Cesare Grava, Aurelie Guilbert, Mark Gurwell, Jason Hofgartner, Brian Holler, Mihaly Horanyi, Sona Hosseini, Reggie Hudson, James Tuttle Keane, Akos Kereszturi, Eduard Kuznetsov, Renu Malhotra, Kathleen Mandt, Laurent Montesi, Jeff Moore, Benoît Noyelles, Maurizio Pajola, Lynnae Quick, Gustavo Benedetti Rossi, Emilie Royer, Kirby Runyon, Pablo Santos Sanz, Paul Schenk, Jennifer Scully, Amanda Sickafoose, Kelsi Singer, Timothy Stubbs, Mark Sykes, Laurence Trafton, Anne Verbiscer, Larry Wasserman, Teresa Wong, Amanda Zangari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The exploration of the binary Pluto-Charon and its small satellites during the New Horizons flyby in 2015 revealed not only widespread geologic and compositional diversity across Pluto, but surprising complexity, a wide range of surface unit ages, evidence for widespread activity stretching across billion of years to the near-present, as well as numerous atmospheric puzzles, and strong atmospheric coupling with its surface. New Horizons also found an unexpected diversity of landforms on its binary companion, Charon. Pluto's four small satellites yielded surprises as well, including their unexpected rapid and high obliquity rotation states, high albedos, and diverse densities. Here we briefly review the findings made by New Horizons and the case for a follow up mission to investigate the Pluto system in more detail. As the next step in the exploration of this spectacular planet-satellite system, we recommend an orbiter to study it in considerably more detail, with new types of instrumentation, and to observe its changes with time. We further call for the in-depth study of Pluto orbiter missions as a precursor to the 2023 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Aug 22 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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