Geology Never Sleeps: Lessons from the Geological Exploration of the Pluto System

Professor William B. McKinnon, Washington University in St. Louis

The exploration of the outer reaches of the solar system, especially of Pluto and the Kuiper belt objects, is the main goal of the New Horizons space mission. The spacecraft carrying an arsenal of instruments was launched ten years ago on January 19, 2006 and it swung past Jupiter in July 2007 in a precise maneuver for a kinematic boost. In the year 2015 it completed a long reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons and is on its way to explore deeper into the Kuiper belt, a relict of the birth of the solar system. These observations are revealing many fascinating and unexpected aspects of these objects and are also providing insights into conditions that prevailed in this part of the Galaxy more than 5 billion years ago.