Pluto, the small, icy rock floating 3.6 billion miles from the sun, hasn’t been a full-fledged planet since 2006. The International Astronomical Union, a group of professional astronomers, ruled that, by their standards, Pluto doesn’t make the cut. But not everyone agrees with that ruling. Some hold out hope that Pluto may eventually rejoin Earth and the eight other planets.

One of those astronomers is Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Last year, their small space probe flew by Pluto and gathered data previously unknown to man.

“It doesn’t take an expert to take a look at Pluto, which New Horizons revealed in all of its glory, and tell just by looking that it’s obviously a planet,” Stern says. “And somehow, all those astronomers who work on stars and galaxies just got it wrong ten years ago.”

Stern is not alone – he has millions of people on his side. In fact, one quick Google search and you can find scores of articles sparking a public debate on Pluto’s classification. Stern says that according to him and other planetary experts, there is no question to Pluto’s legitimacy. It is just a matter of the press catching up to this fact.

But with this level of certainty, what did the New Horizons mission provide us in terms of Pluto and the future of space travel?

“This is the first mission in a generation to go exploring a new planet and what we found was completely unexpected,” Stern says. “A small planet, on the frigid outer border of our solar system that’s just as complex as the Earth or Mars, it’s still geologically alive today with blue skies, five moons, volcanoes, vast mountain ranges and glaciers.

“The New Horizons mission was a breakthrough in many ways. … It’s opened up our ability to do more exploration for less money and less time, and the results, scientifically, just keep pouring in.”