Humor by John Christmann

Planet Lite

spherical ice cube in glass

Honestly, I don’t know why they bother to call Pluto the Dwarf Planet. Either it is a planet or it isn’t. Calling it a Mini Planet or a Planette or a Junior Birdman Planet is equally bad.

Why not call it what it is? A huge freaking ice cube. Because with all of the other gazillions of icy slush floating around the vicinity, the demoted Pluto is now just another sip in the Kuiper Belt slurpy.

Like a lot of people, when Pluto officially left the ranks of the Solar System I was crushed. I was also crushed when Zayne left One Direction. But at least they didn’t start calling him a Dwarf Zayne. Although it might make sense to rename the group One Direction Less.

By the way, I am just kidding about being crushed. I mean after all, Pluto was just a cartoon dog. Zayne was my idol.

And besides, what are we supposed to do? Change the planetary mnemonic we have known since we were kids? My Very Efficient Mother Just Sent Us Nine Dwarf Pizzas. I don’t think so.

But I understand that times were tough in 2006 and we needed to downsize the planetary roster. And lets face it, Pluto as a planet really didn’t spark much imagination for anybody anyway. After watching Han Solo flash the Millennium Falcon into a frenetic asteroid belt in Star Wars, Pluto and its ice ball neighbors seemed pretty lame.

I mean really, has anyone ever been worried about being invaded by Plutonians?

So why, then, did NASA fire a technology-laden grand piano into outer space to study the ninth planet if it wasn’t really a planet?

When I was in 6th grade I completed a science project on Pluto. We had our choice of planets to research and I chose Pluto because not much was known about it so I figured I wouldn’t have to do much. I was right. I didn’t do much.

But I still learned a few things.

In fact, until that New Horizons space gizmo shot past Pluto the other day and made headlines and brought all those know-it-all rocket scientists from NASA out from their video-lit control cave, I knew more about Pluto than most people.

Now how am I going to impress anybody at cocktail parties?

Like for instance did you know that Pluto was named for the Roman God of the Underworld? That was big news to me. I always thought the Roman God of the Underworld was Don Corleone.

Here is something else I learned about Pluto when I was in 6th grade. It snows Nitrogen.

You can see why I am upset that I no longer have anything unique to add at cocktail parties.

According to NASA, the New Horizons mission will help us all to better understand the icy worlds at the boundary of the universe. I know a little about ice. It helps keep gin and tonics cold. I am not sure what more we need to know, but I am sure it is something important.

I haven’t done any equivalent calculations, but given the fact that the New Horizons spacecraft left earth in 2006 just before Pluto was officially placed on the No Fly List, it seems to me that collecting data about the Dwarf Planet as we pass by is a little like sending a turtle across Nebraska to pick up the mail.

Hopefully the mailman came. Hopefully amid the catalogs and bills there are some actual letters.

Speaking of bills, learning more about the icy worlds beyond is not cheap. The New Horizons mission to Pluto cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 million dollars. But to be fair, NASA did save $25 by not checking any luggage. And of course, NASA accrued about 3 billion frequent flyer miles which they can apply to a manned mission to Mars—so long as they take a Red-eye.

Unfortunately due to budget constraints, NASA had to settle for a quickie flyby of Pluto, meaning that the New Horizon sensing monitors will have just enough time to see Pluto from an altitude of 7,000 miles if they look out the left window and don’t blink.

Since the sensors are actually traveling at 37,000 mph hopefully they won’t be in the bathroom or making a sandwich when Pluto whooshes by.

The good news for me is that all of this important new data will take 16 months to reach earth because apparently even NASA has a slow Internet connection. So while everyone excitedly waits for the treasure of information gathered from the icy nether worlds to buffer, I can still rely on my vast 6th grade knowledge of Pluto to impress people at cocktail parties.

Because when it comes to the universe, I like to feel like I am at the center.