Drawback In The Sad “Dwarf Planet” Saga
Size does matter for NASA, ESA and the likes. That’s the drawback.
This summer, 49 years after being established, NASA will launch its first major space probe dedicated to the study of main-belt asteroids Ceres and Vesta.
In the meanwhile, in 46 years of interplanetary travels there have been only a couple of Russian attempts at studying Phobos, the satellite of Mars that is likely to be a captured asteroid.
And none at all about Deimos, the other satellite of Mars, despite the fact that it is the easiest and cheapest place to reach in the Solar System from the Low Earth Orbit (such as the Space Station’s). It’s easier and cheaper than the surface of our own Moon.
Can’t anybody else see a pattern emerging? Yes there have been peculiar missions like the one to asteroid Eros, but those are by far the exception.
Let’s face it: Big Space Agencies don’t like to bother with small components of the Solar System. It is not “cool” enough to say “Well guys and gals we are going to see a space rock smaller than Rhode Island” (despite the surprises those space rocks may be hiding for us to discover).
There is a mission en-route to Pluto now. It was cancelled before lift-off at least once, and I am sure it would have never been approved had Pluto been demoted to “dwarf planet” in that silly astronomical congress a few months back.
And all of that, just to make sure schoolchildren could keep a mnemonic of 8 planets?
There are more than 9 stars and more than 9 galaxies…
The more time passes, the more unbelievable the whole thing is. Now Eris has been discovered to be larger than Pluto.
Anyway, I think 99.99% of people will agree that there is no way to scientifically define a planet. Here’s a definition for the “Average Joe and Jane” then:
“A Planet is a round-ish object that orbits around a star and does not orbit around another round-ish object” (c) Maurizio Morabito 2007.
Who can get simpler than that?
And what would be soooooooooooooo wrong with it?