It is truly amazing: a human artifact is riding a comet some 500 million kilometers from Earth tonight. “Riding” may even be the perfect word, since it may be hanging on to this speeding boulder without its anchoring harpoons stuck into the soft rock (sand? snowball?) it fell on.
If you don’t know what I’m going on about in the previous paragraph, watch this NASA video to understand how ridiculously hard this was:
And yet, after ten years of aiming at this mountain-sized remnant of the Big Bang orbiting crazily around the sun, our scientists and engineers managed to land this expensive piece of metal called Philae in the right spot. It is now sending back pictures and data for us to process.
With a bit of good fortune, it will hang on long enough for the comet to come back around the sun. If it doesn’t, its mother ship, called Rosetta, will stay in orbit. It also collects data that will help us better understand what comets are, and what they do. Before it’s all over, maybe we’ll be able to prove (or disprove) that a comet brought water to earth, leading (after a long march of time) to life on this planet.
Congratulations to the European Space Agency and the teams of scientists that put this mission together. I sit here in wonder and astonishment.
Does space exploration excite you? Is it a waste of expertise and money? Still signed up for the Virgin Galactic trip? As always, I look forward to your comments.