The complex and contested origins of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, launched by NASA in 2006, provides a window on how space science policy has been formulated in the United States before and after the turn of the twenty-first century, and how the shifting network of institutions that support and shape space science have changed since 1989. Those decades have so far been little studied except by policy scholars seeking lessons from the NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin’s attempt to force a small-spacecraft technological revolution on space science in the 1990s. The New Horizons case study reveals a shift in the balance of power around 2000 among the important players in the field, increasing the influence of non-NASA actors—notably Congress, science groups, and planetary-exploration lobbies. In addition, the origins of New Horizons reveal how contingent the emergence of a particular space science mission can be.
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