On Nov. 12, a robotic space lander that was attached to a spacecraft landed on a comet that is moving more than 80,000 miles per hour.
I’m not even going to pretend to know exactly how this happened. I could read an article, and essentially copy and paste. But instead I’m just going to appreciate the accomplishment, and leave the logistics in the hands of the people behind it.
Those people are the European Space Agency, headquartered in Paris, who launched the Rosetta spacecraft in March 2004. Just over 10 years later, the Philae lander detached from the Rosetta and touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which, coincidentally, is what I plan to name my first child.
It’s the first time that a spacecraft has ever landed on a comet nucleus.
Sadly, Kim Kardashian’s ass — also of meteoric proportions — won the headlines last week, overshadowing this achievement. But the general public is as much to blame for that as Kim Kardashian is, but let’s not get into that.
As amazing as this accomplishment is, it didn’t go without some complications. Solar panels on the Philae were designed to keep its batteries running. However, the lander ultimately settled in a shadowy part of the comet, and thus scientists were only able to retrieve information from it until its charge expired. But apparently it was a lot of data, including the first ever images from a comet’s surface.
The Philae, which if said aloud might be confused with a cut of meat, went silent on Nov. 14. But it’s believed that by around August 2015, when the comet has moved closer to the sun in its orbit, the lander’s solar panels may receive enough light to function again. Or at least that’s what Wikipedia says.
Oh, and the lander has its own Twitter feed. The mission also has its own page. The comet has yet to engage in social media, but I do think I came across it on Tinder the other night when I was drunk.
Any data that the ESA makes public will probably be so scientifically advanced that it’ll be meaningless to me, but I think even us simpletons can appreciate the incredible magnitude of this undertaking: a 10-year mission, to land a 200 lb. device on a freaking comet some 500 million miles away from Earth.
I mean, couldn’t we make the argument that this is mankind’s greatest achievement to date? I don’t see how anybody could strongly disagree with that. And if that’s the case, why aren’t we talking about it more?