Well, it was just amazing. A spacecraft from Earth landed last week on a comet.
In an age of immediacy — we get our food, our news, our social interaction right away, snap, just like that — it’s a bit hard to fathom the scope of the Rosetta project.
It sounds like the plot of a 1950s space movie.
The Rosetta spacecraft was launched in 2004. I’m not sure why, but for 10 years it labored through space headed for a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Don’t ask me to pronounce that.
At one point, in 2011, Rosetta went into deep-space hibernation mode and didn’t wake up again until last January.
Ten years. That is amazing, almost Biblical — Moses wandering the desert, Noah and the deluge, even non-scriptural Dr. Zhivago was drafted into war one snowy afternoon and didn’t get home for many years.
Ten years. I have trouble remembering things from last month. Imagine sending a space ship off on a mission to land on a comet and then just forgetting about it. Nothing new to do when you get to work for most of that time, I’d suppose.
“Rosetta still flying on course?”
“OK. See you tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, the lander, called Philae, didn’t make a perfect landing on the comet. Its harpoon feet didn’t attach themselves properly to the surface of the comet and Philae bounced a couple times. Now, they think, it’s lying on its side somewhere on the surface of 67P. It’s sending back scientific stuff, but its solar batteries can’t charge with the lander on its side, so Philae is rapidly running out of power.
After 10 years, the project has a sense of sudden urgency — scientists are downloading all the scientific stuff as quickly as possible, so they can get as much as possible before Philae fizzles.
No matter. This is an amazing feat of outer space science and now we know it IS possible to send someone like Bruce Willis on a mission to save the world if a comet or asteroid is hurtling toward us.
Yes, it is just like a 1950s space movie.