Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Probing Pluto’ | Science News for Students

Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Probing Pluto’

Feb 16, 2017 — 7:05 am EST
pluto's majestic mountains and frozen plains

New Horizons made many images of Pluto, including this one of mountains and plains on its surface.


New Horizons made many images of Pluto, including this one of mountains and plains across its surface.


To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: Probing Pluto” 


Before Reading

1.  Draw the solar system, including the sun, the eight planets and the dwarf planet Pluto. (You can include the other four dwarf planets, as well.) Where is Pluto in relation to Earth?

2.  Pluto is very far away from Earth. No human will be visiting it anytime soon. How else might we study Pluto?

During Reading:

1.  What happened to the New Horizons spacecraft 10 days before it was scheduled to rendezvous with Pluto?

2.  Why did the Deep Space Network search an alternative frequency for signs of New Horizons?

3.  What are the Apollo missions?

4.  What is a Petoskey stone?

5.  How did Cathy Olkin study Triton’s atmosphere from Earth?

6.  How did Cathy Olkin’s team choose which side of Pluto to fly past?

7.  What was the NEAR mission? What did it do?

8.  How did Coralie Jackman use computer models to aid the New Horizons mission?

9.  How did New Horizons’ scientists use the images coming from the spacecraft in 2015?

10.  What is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field?

After Reading

1.  In a group, design a probe that would study a planet or another object in the solar system. What would you study — and why? What kinds of data would you want to collect? How would your probe get there?

2.  The New Horizons mission took years of planning, nearly a decade of travel time, some $700 million and dozens of people. But it brought back revolutionary data about the dwarf planet, data that never could have been obtained from Earth. Was it worth the investment in time and money? Explain why you feel this way, giving examples to shore up your assessment.


1.  The New Horizons spacecraft traveled 4.8 billion kilometers (3 billion miles) over 9.5 years to reach Pluto. What was it’s average speed in kilometers per hour (or miles per hour)?