Thursday, November 13, 2014

Congratulations, Little Philae!

The little, washing-machine-sized Philae lander, after ten years cruising through harsh interplanetary space on the back of the European Space Agency's Rosetta craft, finally caught up with comet 67/P and landed today. The terrains are mind-mangling. Here are photons on your screen bringing you an image of a free-floating body of rock and ice several times the size of Mt. Everest that tumbles through space on an orbit that takes it from about the orbit of Mars out to the orbit of Jupiter before swinging back again...For centuries, the comet was a blurry sky-object of mystery, a demon, harbinger of, we humans see it a speck of dust in the galaxy, and we can send our own grain of dust, and little bundles of wire and cables and computer chips that act as extensions of our own senses, to land on that speck of dust after ten years of exposure to the chill of interplanetary space, cosmic radiation and a thousand other shocks. Incredible! I added a 747 to scale to give an impression of the size.

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