Top 98 Alan Stern Quotes of 2020

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“To keep everyone invested in your vision, you have to back up a little bit and really analyze who the different stakeholders are and what they individually respond to.”

― Alan Stern

“We really just didn’t realize the diversity of planetary types in our solar system. Pluto looked like a misfit because it was the only one we saw. And just as a Chihuahua is still a dog, these ice dwarfs are still planetary bodies. They’re large enough to make themselves round by self gravity, and they surely pass the test of planethood.”

― Alan Stern

“Just because Pluto orbits with many other dwarf planets doesn’t change what it is, just as whether an object is a mountain or not doesn’t depend on whether it’s in a group or in isolation.”

― Alan Stern

“Just because Pluto or comets aren’t as big as Jupiter doesn’t mean they are not scientifically important – indeed, just the reverse is often true. Sometimes, great things come in small packages.”

― Alan Stern

“The big lesson of planetary science is when you do a first reconnaissance of a new kind of object, you should expect the unexpected.”

― Alan Stern

“There are lots of really interesting little planets out there in the Kuiper Belt, but Pluto’s the only one that’s got all the cool attributes.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto is still active four and a half billion years into its history. It was expected that small planets like Pluto would cool off long ago and not still be showing geological activity. Pluto is, in fact, showing numerous examples of geological activity on a massive scale across the planet.”

― Alan Stern

“As a scientist in charge of space sensors and entire space missions before I was at NASA, I myself was involved in projects that overran. But that’s no excuse for remaining silent about this growing problem or failing to champion reform.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto is as far across as Manhattan to Miami, but its atmosphere is bigger than the Earth’s.”

― Alan Stern

“The Pluto system is much more complex than I had expected.”

― Alan Stern

“The first mission to Mars did not expect to find craters and river valleys, and yet they did. The first mission to Jupiter didn’t expect to find ocean worlds and volcano worlds, but they did.”

― Alan Stern

“Even in our deep ocean, there are ecosystems at work with no light whatsoever down in the deepest portions of the oceanic abyss.”

― Alan Stern

“As a planetary scientist, I don’t know what else to call Pluto: It’s big and round and thousands of miles wide.”

― Alan Stern

“Of course Pluto is a planet: It’s massive enough to have its shape controlled by gravity rather than material strength, which is the hallmark of planethood.”

― Alan Stern

“No one predicted Mercury would be a planetary core with the mantle stripped off. No one predicted volcanoes on the Jovian moons, or oceans on the inside of them. I can tell you, for every single planet, huge ‘we never guessed that’ things.”

― Alan Stern

“People know a planet when they see one, and I think that’s a pretty darn good test, in fact, for planethood.”

― Alan Stern

“Discovering that our solar system has many more planets than we ever expected, and that most of them are ice dwarfs rather than like Earth and the other rocky terrestrials, is just another step in the revolution in viewpoint that removed the Earth from the center of the physical universe and makes Earth all the more special.”

― Alan Stern

“At the time of Apollo 11, I was a grade-schooler, and I remember every time an Apollo mission would take place that, like a lot of little boys, I’d gather in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours with my little brother.”

― Alan Stern

“New Horizons isn’t just visiting Pluto; it’s visiting this entire region. Whatever it finds, this will be a signal moment for planetary exploration – the capstone to our first reconnaissance of the planets of our solar system.”

― Alan Stern

“I like the planets because they are real places that you can go to and send machines to. Faraway astronomy – galactic astronomy and extra-galactic astronomy – is really cool stuff, but to me, it’s about destinations.”

― Alan Stern

“One thing scientists do is to find order among a large number of facts, and one way to do that across fields as diverse as biology, geology, physics and astronomy is through classification.”

― Alan Stern

“When I started working with NASA in 1989 as part of a mission to send spacecraft to Pluto, I knew it would take at least 10-15 years to see results of my efforts.”

― Alan Stern

“Science doesn’t work by voting. Did people vote on the theory of relativity? No! It’s either right or it’s wrong. Do we vote on whether genetics is a good theory or not? Of course not.”

― Alan Stern

“The solar system is completely wide open. Almost anywhere we go, I’m sure we would learn a lot.”

― Alan Stern

“I expect New Horizons will see more that Hubble cannot see.”

― Alan Stern

“The costs of badly-run NASA projects are paid for with cutbacks or delays in NASA projects that didn’t go over budget. Hence the guilty are rewarded and the innocent are punished.”

― Alan Stern

“There was a time when Pluto – which NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft at last explored in 2015, a mission I led – was considered the last planet. We now know there are thousands of other – possibly inhabited – planets.”

― Alan Stern

“Human beings have long wondered whether they are alone in the universe.”

― Alan Stern

“I just think it’s patently absurd for scientists to categorize objects on the basis of the numbers of objects that they can remember.”

― Alan Stern

“I think when people see Pluto revealed by New Horizons, its satellite system, its complex surface, its atmosphere, I think they’ll have a hard time saying ‘That’s not a planet’ because it obviously will be, and I think most people are already coming to that opinion anyway, but I think that’s really going to drive it home viscerally.”

― Alan Stern

“A miniature poodle is not not a dog just because it’s miniature.”

― Alan Stern

“If you put Earth out beyond Neptune, you wouldn’t be able to call it a planet because it couldn’t clear its zone.”

― Alan Stern

“How can an adjective in front of a noun not describe the noun? There are dwarf stars, but they’re still considered stars.”

― Alan Stern

“Going to the Kuiper Belt is like an archaeological dig into the history of the solar system.”

― Alan Stern

“It says something very deep about humans and our society, something very good about us, that we’ve invested our time and treasure in building a machine that can fly across three billion miles of space to explore the Pluto system.”

― Alan Stern

“Every mission has life-or-death moments.”

― Alan Stern

“I’ve been on 26 space missions; they range from suborbital to orbital to shuttle experiments to planetary missions.”

― Alan Stern

“It shouldn’t be so difficult to determine what a planet is. When you’re watching a science fiction show like ‘Star Trek’ and they show up at some object in space and turn on the viewfinder, the audience and the people in the show know immediately whether it’s a planet or a star or a comet or an asteroid.”

― Alan Stern

“A river is a river, independent of whether there are other rivers nearby. In science, we call things what they are based on their attributes, not what they’re next to.”

― Alan Stern

“In science, we take large numbers of disparate facts and reduce them to see patterns. We use the patterns to reduce the amount of information. It’s the reason we name species and genera and families in biology. It’s also the reason we have names for certain types of geological features and so on in other fields.”

― Alan Stern

“My field is called planetary science.”

― Alan Stern

“Just speaking for myself, I think the return of people to the Moon has a lot to offer for understanding the formation and evolution of terrestrial worlds; so would the exploration of near-Earth asteroids by people.”

― Alan Stern

“The New Horizons Pluto mission will be the first mission to a binary object and will help us understand everything from the origin of Earth’s moon to the physics of mass transfer between binary stars.”

― Alan Stern

“By going to Pluto, we have a chance to anchor, with real data, models of the early evolution of Earth’s atmosphere.”

― Alan Stern

“The Kuiper belt region, which I call the third zone because it lies beyond the rocky terrestrial planets and beyond the giant planets, is a bizarre frontier.”

― Alan Stern

“During one of the Apollo missions, I saw Walter Cronkite showing off the flight plan. It just mesmerized me. All this detail! That’s what I wanted.”

― Alan Stern

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

― Alan Stern

“As a researcher, I look forward to being able to do space science in a space environment.”

― Alan Stern

“I think if you were between maybe 6 and 16, there was nothing like Apollo, and I wonder if there can be something like that again. We’ll just have to see.”

― Alan Stern

“I’m hopeful that commercial space exploration will takeoff. To really fuel the spaceflight revolution will require an investment of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and I think that’s only going to happen in the commercial sector – if there are large profits to be made.”

― Alan Stern

“Typically in science, individual scientists make up their minds about scientific fact or theory one at a time. We don’t take votes. We just don’t vote on quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, why the sky is blue, or anything else.”

― Alan Stern

“Science is really about individual experts reaching a consensus.”

― Alan Stern

“Most of the oceans in the Solar System are deep beneath ice shelves.”

― Alan Stern

“One of the implications of the discovery of the Kuiper Belt and its many small planets is that many scientists now think of the solar system as having not two but three zones.”

― Alan Stern

“I tend to think of Pluto and its moons as presents sitting under a Christmas tree. They’re wrapped, and from Earth all we can do is look at the boxes to see whether they’re light or heavy, to see if something maybe jiggles a bit inside. We’re seeing intriguing things, but we really don’t know what’s in there.”

― Alan Stern

“I actually started my career in planetary science with a master’s thesis on Pluto.”

― Alan Stern

“We’re in the space exploration business, and the outer solar system is a wild, wooly place. We haven’t explored it very well.”

― Alan Stern

“No one working as an astronomer is shackled in chains. This is a tremendous profession. There are lots of neat people, and you get to do cool things. If I had to say something negative, it’s that there’s often a whole lot of travel that takes me away from my children. That can be a bummer a lot of times.”

― Alan Stern

“Why would you listen to an astronomer about a planet?”

― Alan Stern

“People dig exploration.”

― Alan Stern

“Liquids may have existed on the surface of Pluto in the past.”

― Alan Stern

“I tell public audiences, don’t go to a podiatrist for brain surgery; don’t go to an astronomer for planetary science.”

― Alan Stern

“When we first sent missions to Jupiter, no one expected to find moons that would have active volcanoes. And I could go down a long list of how often I’ve been surprised by the richness of nature.”

― Alan Stern

“To say that what a planet is doesn’t matter would be to imply that a planetary scientist couldn’t explain to someone what the field is about.”

― Alan Stern

“Back before the Kuiper Belt was discovered, Pluto did look like a misfit that didn’t belong with either the terrestrials or the giant planets.”

― Alan Stern

“It’s very hard to motivate yourself and others with only one goal – particularly if it’s complex and you might not get there until years down the road. That’s why intermediate goals are so important.”

― Alan Stern

“The Kuiper Belt is the largest mapped structure in our planetary system, three times as big as all the territory from the sun out to Neptune’s orbit.”

― Alan Stern

“I can’t imagine how many kids around the world will look at pictures of Pluto and think, ‘I want to grow up to be a scientist.’”

― Alan Stern

“Either data supports the observations or they don’t. Voting doesn’t work in science.”

― Alan Stern

“Whether there’s even an ocean on Pluto deep inside is a question I hope New Horizons can address in indirect ways.”

― Alan Stern

“In the mind of the public, the word ‘planet’ carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies… many members of the public assume that alleged ‘non-planets’ cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration.”

― Alan Stern

“New Horizons is a very high-tech, small, roughly 1,000-pound spacecraft with the most powerful battery of scientific instrumentation ever brought to bear on a first reconnaissance mission.”

― Alan Stern

“It’s interesting – Pluto’s almost a brand unto itself. It’s the farthest. It’s the most diminutive of the classical planets. It’s been maligned by astronomers. It’s always the one with all the question marks in the back of the textbook in the table. I think children identify with it because it’s smaller, kind of cute.”

― Alan Stern

“I call Pluto the harbinger.”

― Alan Stern

“America’s space program has been the envy and inspiration of the world. It has made landmark scientific discoveries that are a lasting legacy of this nation’s greatness. It has studied Earth in ways no other nation can match.”

― Alan Stern

“Are governments the only entities that can build human spacecraft? No – actually, every human spacecraft ever built for NASA was built by private industry.”

― Alan Stern

“Competition-driven innovation and price pressure that commercial practices foster can only make human spaceflight ever more common and U.S. leadership in this domain ever clearer.”

― Alan Stern

“Having a diverse suite of U.S.-manned spaceflight systems to access space is inherently robust.”

― Alan Stern

“It is only by freeing NASA from routine human transport to low-Earth orbit that we can afford to once again see American astronauts exploring distant worlds.”

― Alan Stern

“The basic story for Golden Spike is that we discovered a way to create do-it-yourself Apollo programs for other countries.”

― Alan Stern

“If you go to planetary science meetings and hear technical talks on Pluto, you will hear experts calling it a planet every day.”

― Alan Stern

“I think that one of the things that will come out of the New Horizons mission is that the public will take a look, and they won’t know what else to call Pluto but a planet – and a pretty exciting one.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto and its brethren are the most populous class of planets in our solar system.”

― Alan Stern

“I’m the one who originally coined the term ‘dwarf planet,’ back in the nineteen-nineties.”

― Alan Stern

“That so many binary or quasi-binary KBOs exist came as a real surprise to the research community.”

― Alan Stern

“We’re going to find Marses and maybe Earths out in the solar system’s attic of the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt.”

― Alan Stern

“CASIS has to succeed because for it not to succeed would be a huge setback for the International Space Station program.”

― Alan Stern

“CSF and its members believe strongly in the exploration of space of all kinds, including commercial purposes.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto is the new Mars.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto has a very interesting history, and there is a lot of work that we need to do to understand this very complicated place.”

― Alan Stern

“Pluto has strong atmospheric cycles: it snows on the surface; the snows sublimate and go back into the atmosphere each 248 year orbit.”

― Alan Stern

“People ask, ‘What are the scientific questions you’re going to answer?’ New Horizons doesn’t have any of those; it’s purely about raw exploration… We’re not ‘rewriting the textbook’ – we’re writing the textbook from scratch.”

― Alan Stern

“If the Pluto mission was a cat, then it would’ve been dead long ago because they only get nine lives, and we’ve had significantly more than nine stoppages and odd twists and turns.”

― Alan Stern

“We were very surprised to find out that Pluto is still geologically alive. It has upended our ideas of how planetary geophysics works.”

― Alan Stern

“You could not have predicted the amazing discoveries at Pluto, even though we have been to a couple of objects in the solar system that were at least a little analogous to Pluto.”

― Alan Stern

“We made more than just scientific discoveries… we rediscovered how much people love exploration.”

― Alan Stern

“If two billion people wanted to watch a robot fly by Pluto, imagine what it will be like when the first humans step on Mars. It’ll be the most unifying event anybody could ever put on.”

― Alan Stern
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