Pluto, that thing in our solar system whose classification changes like the wind. Throughout recorded history, the mysterious minx known as Pluto has been a full blown planet, an escaped moon of Neptune, a dwarf planet, and a plutoid.
Factions of scientists are demanding it be made a planet once more, and some are insisting that dwarf planet is the correct designation. Still there are other scientists who insist dwarf planet is incorrect, and it should just be considered part of the Kuiper Belt, a group of large objects orbiting the sun beyond the planet Neptune. Pluto shares residency in the Kuiper Belt with fellow dwarf planets Haumea and Makemake.
The classification wars have even been enshrined in pop culture. The USA Network’s Psych premiered in 2006 — the same year Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet. In the episode “From the Earth to the Starbucks” (Season 1, Episode 10), one of the main characters, Gus, uses the pick up line “Have you heard about Pluto? That’s messed up.” This became a long running joke in the show and an internet meme.
While disagreements in the scientific community on how Pluto should be classified run rampant, everyone is intrigued on what the (possible) 9th planet from the sun is like and what secrets it holds. This intrigue made it a destination for the New Horizons spacecraft sent by NASA to investigate it as well as other large objects in the Kuiper Belt. Launched on January 19, 2006, New Horizons finally reached its first destination and sent back the clearest image of Pluto to date, as well as a host of vital information regarding its topography, its elemental make-up and several of its orbiting moons.
“Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration showing us why basic scientific research is so important. The mission has had nine years to build expectations about what we would see during closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Today, we get the first sampling of the scientific treasure collected during those critical moments, and I can tell you it dramatically surpasses those high expectations,” explained associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld.
Mechanical engineer, part time Storm Trooper in the 501st Legion, and 3D printing mad man Todd Blatt was inspired by the new detailed images coming back to Earth from New Horizons and decided to make a 3D printable plaque. Blatt took the 2D image and used Meshmixer to turn it into a 3D relief. You can download the STL file here directly from Tinkerine.