What Would It Be Like to Take a Road Trip Across Pluto?

What Would It Be Like to Take a Road Trip Across Pluto?

by Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Gizmodo

You begin to wake up from stasis as your lander descends to Pluto’s surface. You strain to locate the Sun in the sky as you peek out the window; you finally spot it at the zenith as you wipe your eyes. Though brighter than anything else in the sky, the Sun is now 40 times farther than it was when you were on Earth, and it provides less than one-thousandth the light. Though it’s noon on the dwarf planet’s surface, it still feels like night: All the stars are visible, though a blue haze seems to ring the horizon and give the lowest stars a slight twinkle. Mountainous features are mostly dim silhouettes against the starry sky.

As the lander touches down, you notice how light you feel—the force of gravity is around one-fifteenth of what you’re used to on Earth. You look up again, hoping to see Charon, Pluto’s neighbor. But, just as the travel agent said, it’s not visible. The two dwarf planets are tidally locked, meaning they always present the same side to one another in their orbit. The side of Pluto’s surface you’re visiting is opposite Charon’s orbit, so you’ll have to catch a view from the transport ship on the ride home.

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