Pluto Lovers Will Want To Hear This NASA Scientist

February 16, 2018
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Coming to speak at InfoAge in Wall Township is Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Photo courtesy Joel Kowsky / NASA.

By Michaela Boneva |

NASA’s New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM), Alice Bowman, has led her team of about 40 scientists in piloting the spacecraft that made the historic Pluto flyby in 2015 and captured the most high-resolution images of the dwarf planet to date. In hopes of spreading her love of science to young students, Bowman will be speaking at the InfoAge Science History Learning Center in Wall Township from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The New Horizons mission was one among many to be proposed to NASA with the main focus of reaching and exploring Pluto. While many others were not approved or shut down, New Horizons had a more simplistic approach with a lightweight spacecraft and a small team that helped it achieve success.

Starting with the exploration of planets, Bowman will be speaking about how NASA decided to shoot for Pluto and the technological and engineering elements that were necessary to get there. She will also be speaking about the next steps for the New Horizon mission, which was extended after the Pluto flyby to explore further into the Kuiper Belt, the region where Pluto resides. This includes the preparation of different flyby sequences for another Kuiper Belt Object that the spacecraft will be exploring. Bowman said she might also speak about the historic photos returned from the mission, which she describes as being “absolutely stunning, definitely art.”

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Like most young people, Alice Bowman had a wide variety of interests and while she says space exploration was one of her first loves, she didn’t know this was the career she would pursue. Her interest in space, particularly the engineering aspects, was sparked by the space missions she grew up learning about: Gemini, Mercury and Apollo.

“That wonder you have as a child, it sort of spurred me on to pursue something like that,” Bowman said.

She offers advice to young girls who have fallen in love with science the way she did: “Understand that you will have tough periods … but the important thing is, if you’re really interested in that field of study, that you work your way through it and understand that you may not be perfect but keep pursuing that dream.”

Bowman has been speaking to audiences of students ranging from third-graders to university students, and she hopes to see more young people at InfoAge on Saturday afternoon.

Tickets can be purchased online for $15 at Registration ends Feb. 23.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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