The Man Who Went to Pluto

Dec 19, 2005 10:53am

Monday morning

The New Horizons probe to Pluto is not scheduled for launch until next month, but Alan Stern has already been on a long personal journey.  He started lobbying for the mission back in 1988.  He and his colleagues are holding a news conference this afternoon.  I’ve written a piece about the mission, which you can find HERE.  We’ll also do a video-on-demand piece for the Broadcast Plus part of our site.  It’ll be posted HERE by the end of the day.

Stern is a fascinating man, who’s been tireless in his efforts to make a Pluto mission happen.  He called me and other reporters several times in past years, when New Horizons was in danger of cancellation.  He says he can’t believe the flight is finally on its way to happening.

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Surveillance

While I’m writing this, the President is talking in the background, defending the administration’s efforts over the last three years to intercept overseas phone calls from the U.S.  I spent Friday in crash mode, trying to get an idea just how hard it might have been to do.

The answer we mostly got was that it’s not a question of how to eavesdrop on calls and emails; the hard part is culling the routine stuff from the people you’re really trying to catch. 

I’d be fascinated to know, personally, whether this is a big deal to most Americans.  If you follow the President’s argument, this is part of the war on terror, and it’s okay, on a limited basis, for the government to spy on phone calls.  The most compelling counterargument, though, is that in the process, they may trip across innocent people’s private concerns, and find great fodder, perhaps, for some overzealous prosecutor.  A raging argument–inside the beltway–but does it matter to real Americans who might be affected?  I have no idea.  Have at it, please.

- Ned

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