Pluto, discovered by U.S. astronomers, now has the ashes of its finder voyaging beyond the solar system.

The story of Wan Hu, a nobleman from the Ming dynasty 700 years ago who ambitiously pursued his dream of flight, is well known to many. Despite his determination, Wan Hu paid the ultimate price for his impulsive endeavor due to the technological limitations of his era.

In ancient China, predating the Qin dynasty, the legend of Chang’e flying to the moon captured the imagination of the Chinese people. The dream of leaving Earth, landing on the moon, and exploring outer space has been a perpetual aspiration.

As technological and social advancements enabled great transformations, the dream of space travel began to be realized; the myth of Chang’e became a reality, and escaping Earth became feasible.

The Soviet Union pioneered the world’s space endeavors. In the early 1960s, following the relentless efforts of generations of Soviet scientists, Vostok 1 carried its maiden human flight across the sky, immortalizing the name Yuri Gagarin and his fellow cosmonauts.

Aware of the technological constraints and the lack of precedents in space travel, the Soviet space program and the cosmonauts were prepared for potential sacrifices, venturing into the uncharted cosmos with unpredictable challenges lying ahead.

After safely reaching outer space, the cosmonauts commenced their planned operations. However, an unforeseen accident occurred during the transfer from their space station to their spacecraft.

Due to an unprecedented technical malfunction, the spacecraft’s pressure valve showed signs of disengagement, causing a rapid pressure drop to near-vacuum conditions. For the cosmonauts, this meant breathing oxygen would sharply decrease, leading to imminent death.

This emergency unfolded in outer space, amidst the “Star Wars” tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, leaving the Soviets without a contingency plan. Tragically, the cosmonauts suffocated in the vacuum of the spacecraft, their final resting place among the stars.

Great endeavors often come with sacrifice and memory, and while these cosmonauts were forever parted from their homeland, they remain heroes in the hearts of people worldwide.

The story of an American astronomer stands out among these space heroes, who, compared to all astronauts, traveled the longest distance and time in outer space. It is said that he has now surpassed Pluto, heading beyond the solar system.

This American astronomer, Clyde William Tombaugh, discovered Pluto in 1930 using his self-made telescope, following the predictions of other astronomers and after studying the orbital paths of Mars and Jupiter.

His contributions to space exploration were significant and laid the groundwork for his later ascent into outer space.

Throughout his life, Tombaugh was devoted to astronomy but never realized his dream of space travel. As his heartfelt wish became a poignant final aspiration, NASA paid homage to the great astronomer by honoring his last wish to have his ashes sent into space.

By 2006, U.S. space technology had advanced enough to carry out Tombaugh’s wish. With the permission of his descendants, NASA placed his ashes aboard a spacecraft destined to explore new celestial bodies in outer space.

As the craft’s sole “passenger,” Tombaugh’s family was moved and grateful, for he could finally “visit” Pluto, the planet he discovered.

To this day, the spacecraft continues to journey through vast space, carrying Tombaugh well past Pluto, moving towards breaking free from the solar system’s bounds.

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