Black, coal black, the comet hurtles through space. But on this pass around the sun it’s not alone. The European Space Agency’s intrepid voyager Rosetta tracks it every step of the way. Rosetta;s comet mission is a stunning culmination of over a decade of vision, planning and just plain sweat.
Clinging to Comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasimenko like a spider is Rosetta’s trusty sidekick Philae, the little probe that made history on November 12, 2014 when it landed on the comet’s rocky surface. Though its landing was bouncy and its batteries limited, Philae sent a treasure trove of data to Rosetta for transmission to eager researchers back on earth.
The photographs sent back by Rosetta are breathtaking. They offer us Earthlings a real-time look at an object none of us could ever see otherwise, a detailed look at an ancient visitor from deep space.
This is not science fiction, kiddies. This is us, human beings, staring the universe right in the eye. And that should send a little chill down the spine.
Some sites that showcased Rosetta’s images also included classical soundtracks to play while viewing – a nod to the fact that the whole endeavor is more than a collection of robotic parts sending back pictures of a large rock.
In reading comments to the various online articles about Rosetta and Philae, I was dismayed. Some readers complained that the photographs (sent from space of a dead black object) were not in color. Others dismissed the entire Rosetta mission as a failure because Philae didn’t land properly and its batteries failed far too soon. Still others thought it was all Obama’s fault. And of course there were the predictable rants about “wasting” time and money on exploring the Universe.
I can’t stop thinking about that little craft, silently tracking its coal black target on its way toward the sun. It represents a triumph of dedication, knowledge and technology. It opens doors to a wondrous and scary reality. We are always wondering if we are alone in the universe. Missions like Rosetta show us that we aren’t – it’s a vast world full of movers and shakers, bigger than our problems, bigger than Obama. And they are completely alien to us here on our little blue ball.
The more we learn about them, the more we can look at this planet from a different perspective. And that just might lead to a better life for us all down here.
I’ll be writing about Rosetta and Philae in an upcoming ebook. Stay tuned.
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Featured image courtesy of ESA: Space in Images