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This July 14, 2015, image provided by NASA on Wednesday shows Pluto's largest moon, Charon, made by the New Horizons spacecraft.

Last week, as Chattanooga was embroiled in planetary shifts of our own with an "active shooter" among us, the stunning photos of Pluto went almost completely unnoticed.

The photos and data now streaming back to earth will teach us for years, but last week what they highlighted was, in the words of one ordinary earthing's letter to the editor of the New York Times, "another bleak, lifeless, sterile sphere wandering around our sun, like all the others, save one."

That "one," said the San Diego letter writer, is our own inviting blue-green Earth. And we can compare the ice planet of Pluto to a photo of Earth that we came to know thanks to the Apollo 8 voyage around our moon 40 years ago. That "one" — our Earth — is that only place in our solar system that can and does support life.

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This image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Friday scientists said they found vast frozen plains spanning a couple hundred miles in the heart-shaped area of Pluto, next door to its big, rugged mountains of water ice. (NASA via AP)

"We would do well to keep those two disparate images in mind as we contemplate what our species is doing to the planet Earth — the only home humankind is ever likely to know," the writer noted.

Another letter writer from Queens, N.Y., complained about the cost of the Pluto photographs, taken by the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft: "Since there are limited funds available for basic scientific research, spending $700 million to get a photograph of Pluto is not a prudent use of these funds," he wrote.

Never mind that the tally equates to 25 cents a person each year for the past decade — about the same amount of time it took New Horizons to reach Pluto.

And a third writer, hailing from Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., wondered at the gap between our rocket-science skills and our people skills:

"It is remarkable that mankind is capable of sending a spacecraft traveling three billion miles for nine years to capture amazing pictures that tell us so much more about the world around us, yet on planet Earth, we still haven't figured out how to respect and live with one another."

See, we have already learned a lot from Pluto.

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