Pendle man reaches for the stars

editorial image
Share this article

In 2006, NASA launched its New Horizons spacecraft on an historic journey to the dwarf planet, Pluto, the former ninth planet of our solar system.

Even though it was first discovered in 1930, little is known about this frozen planet, but on 14th July 2015, this situation will hopefully change forever, when, after nine and half years and 3.6 billion miles, New Horizons will pass close to Pluto and begin to gather information about this mysterious body, the last unexplored world of our solar system.

John will be appearing at the ACE Centre

John will be appearing at the ACE Centre

NASA believes that Pluto is a storage area of some of the building blocks of our solar system and the main purpose of the mission is therefore to beam back information gathered about polar caps, atmosphere and weather. By using this data, NASA hopes to be able to better understand the development of the earth and the solar system itself.

The New Horizons spacecraft is an amazing piece of technology. It is the fastest manmade object ever to leave earth, travelling at ten times the speed of a bullet (or over one million miles a day). Unfortunately it is this amazing speed that means the spacecraft will be unable to land on the planet itself, but will have to gather the photographs, measurements and data during a two hour window as it passes within 8000 miles of the surface, before going on to explore further out into space.

Overseeing the control and programming of this $700M mission is a team of NASA’s best scientists - one of the primary members of this team is a Lancashire lad, and planetary scientist, John Spencer.

Having grown up in Colne, John went on to obtain a BSc in Geology at Cambridge and a PhD in planetary science at the University of Arizona and is now a key member of NASA’s team based in Boulder, Colorada USA.

In the days following the flypast on 14th July, NASA will start to receive photographs and data from the spacecraft and many of these fascinating pictures will be shown all over the world. But the people of Pendle will be able to get a real insight into the inner workings of the mission as John is returning to Pendle in September when he will be hosting an evening at The ACE Centre in Nelson, presenting exciting new images and data of this memorable event.

John is keen to share with as many people as possible - so tickets are being offered at only £2 each for the presentation which will be on Friday 25th September at 7.30pm. Tickets have only just gone on sale but interest is already high.

For further information or to book, contact The ACE Centre on 01282 661080 or check out the website at