My name is Dennis Reuter, and I'm the instrument scientist for the Ralph instrument on New Horizons.
Question 1 Pluto, planet or dwarf?
I don't think that Pluto cares what it's called. We know that we're going out and looking at a part of the solar system that's never been explored in situ before, in place before, and that's what's exciting about the mission.
Question 2 What is New Horizons?
New Horizons is a mission to the Pluto system and beyond, now that we recognize that this is all part of the Kuiper belt, a undisturbed area left over from the beginning of the solar system.
Question 3 What is Ralph?
The Ralph instrument is a combined spectral imager, we look in the infrared to get spectra that tells us what materials are on the surface and what their temperatures are and how they're distributed, and it also has color imagers on it: red, blue, near-infrared and a channel for methane all in one small measurement system. The data will tell us a lot about what has gone on on Pluto since its formation four billion years ago.
Question 4 Why explore Pluto?
Pluto and the Kuiper belt represent a new object in the solar system that has never really been explored. We've taken close-up images of all the planets and of many of the moons around the planets. The Kuiper belt, that large area that's out there, really has never had a spacecraft visit it, and Pluto is the first of that and hopefully others will follow.
FADE TO BLACK.