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Reality Check: Trip To Pluto Cost Less Than Vikings Stadium

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- NASA scientists and planet lovers everywhere are cheering the Pluto space probe, which is now sending images of the dwarf planet back to Earth.

The cost of the 10-year voyage is raising eyebrows, but not for the reasons you might think.

The 10-year voyage by the New Horizons satellite was never a sure thing. So when the little space probe phoned home from Pluto, it caused celebration and questions.

Is the $720 million voyage worth the cost?

"In the realm of your solar system dance card, it's one that hasn't been checked yet," Ron Schmidt, the observatory coordinator at Jackson Middle School in Champlin, said.

Schmit is also an official NASA ambassador, remembering skeptics 50 years ago.

The edge-of-the-solar-system breakthrough cost $720 million. That's less than the cost of the $1 billion Vikings stadium. And less than half the $1.7 billion price tag of the Southwest Rail Project.

The $1 billion Vikings stadium is an earthly structure that will stand for decades. New Horizons will be gone from the solar system soon.

"Are you kidding me? That's way out there. It takes light five-and-a-half hours to get there. Are you kidding? Well, we did it yesterday," Schmit said.

But Schmit says both are important to humans on earth.

"People are talking about why are you going to spend money in space? Well actually, we're not spending it in space. It's all spent down here. Jobs, people, building the probes. People designing them, that's all in our economy just like anything else," Schmit said.

The New Horizons probe is beginning to send images of Pluto back to Earth. You may have seen one earlier on WCCO 4 News at 5 or CBS.

It will take a couple of weeks before the pictures are complete.

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