Time After Time (Capsule)

By Kevin Schindler

Sometime in the future—perhaps in 30-40 years, perhaps much longer—a spacecraft will go into orbit around Pluto. When that happens, historians at Lowell will open a time capsule stashed inside the Lawrence Lowell (Pluto Discovery) Telescope, revealing Pluto-related artifacts and documents not seen by any human since June of 2018.

The idea of this Pluto time capsule began with New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, who asked several members of the New Horizons team to make predictions about what the first orbiter to Pluto will disclose about that icy world. Stern suggested putting these predictions into a time capsule at Lowell, and we figured, “Why not add other Pluto stuff to the capsule?”  We gathered 88 items (one for each year between Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930 and the year we sealed the time capsule). We included books, photographs, postage stamps, a Disney Pluto stuffed animal, and even a piece of metal from the shed that used to sit atop the Pluto dome.

The contents are stored inside archival boxes, which are inside a sealed metal time capsule built by Lowell machinist Jeff Gehring. This is bolted to the floor of the Pluto dome, inside a locked cabinet. A plaque on the cabinet door reads:

Pluto Time Capsule

 On 8 June 2018, Lowell Observatory staff, Advisory Board members, and guests dedicated the time capsule sealed within this cabinet.  It contains predictions by the New Horizons flyby team of what the first orbiter to Pluto will unveil, as well as artifacts and memorabilia associated with Pluto.

 To be opened when the first Pluto orbiter reaches its destination.



To the Moon!

By Lauren Amundson

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s Moon landing, Lowell Observatory is taking part in a yearlong celebration called Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy. Museums, science centers, and national parks and monuments in and around Flagstaff will offer special programs and activities. Here in the Putnam Collection Center, we installed an exhibit called Lowell’s Lunar Legacy that highlights the Observatory’s contributions to the space program, including lunar mapping and astronaut training. Can you find Neil Armstrong’s name in the guestbook?