Tag Archives: Philae

Even Working In Space, We’re Human

Where’s the Kaboom? There’s supposed to be a…oh, there it is. What an exploded Titan looks like. Image hosted on List25.com

Just a few tidbits today, more to laugh about and maybe learn in the process. Yup, a person can still have fun while learning. These next few articles are good reminders that the human element is ever-present with space operations, and even if that isn’t, then Murphy just decides to take the helm.

Over the weekend, Gizmodo published a post showing some of the few self-inflicted problems that the space industry has faced. And these are the ones that we know about. Just imagine the many, many reviews that went into making sure what happened with the NOAA-19 satellite would never happen again. Imagine just working in that environment, with the extra few “Are you sure’s??” or “How do I know that…?” Uh-huh, great stuff.

As if some of these aren’t already on the lighter side of space (unless you were one of the poor saps involved–still funny though:-)), here’s a Twitter feed you may wish to look at. Called #WhyIGotFiredFromNASA, it’s a fun and light read about theoretical and playful scenarios that would’ve gotten a particular person fired from NASA. There may actually be some true situations in there, but the overall tone is one of fun and the occasional one-upping of each other.

And the last thing, in case you missed it. Quirky stick-figure cartoon XKCD was frantically posting updates to the site during Rosetta’s Philae foray. Thankfully, instead of having to page through the postings page-flip by page-flip, someone put it all together in a nice animated GIF. You can see it all right here on ExplainXKCD. It’s very obvious the artist loved the idea of Philae landing on the comet, and hopefully it catches on a bit more.


On Time, On Target? The Rosetta Mission

The next few hours or so will be interesting and hopefully history-making.  The European Space Agency (ESA) team has come so far with the Rosetta mission. If you don’t know what Rosetta is, in short: the Europeans have sent a spacecraft, Rosetta, to successfully intercept a comet over 400,000,000 km (about 250,000,000 miles) from Earth, and plan to land a very small probe, named Philae, on it (you can read some detail about the probe, here).

I hope their planning comes to full, successful, fruition. On 12 Nov, at 1602 UTC, the Philae lander will have hopefully made contact with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and securely harpooned itself to the comet’s surface. The lander will have already detached from the Rosetta spacecraft about 7 hours (around 0903 UTC) earlier and slowly made its way to the comet during that time.

So, at the risk of putting up a few more videos up on this site for a couple days in a row now, here’s one that ESA put out about two weeks ago. It’s a bit weird, kind of cool, and definitely highlights ESA’s marketing budget. It’s fun, nonetheless, and hopefully you haven’t seen it yet. It might be inspirational:

Then, if you want to watch the Rosetta operations team as they command and wait to see what happens with Philae and Rosetta as it’s all happening, go to this link: http://new.livestream.com/esa/cometlanding

There will be a lot of hurrying up and waiting, since radio communications take awhile between spacecraft and ground stations. If you can’t watch the video, but still want to follow along with the actions of the folks at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), try following them on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ESA_Rosetta

I wish them the best of luck–although I know they’ve worked hard enough to not just rely on that! As space operators everywhere do.


Intercepting a Comet

Image of comet 67P/C-G. Image hosted on ESA’s Rosetta website.

“[T]he sexiest, most fantastic mission ever,” those are the words of an obviously very sexually confused European Space Agency scientist about the Rosetta satellite’s interception and orbiting of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  The quote comes from Gizmodo’s post about the current successes of the Rosetta satellite exploration mission.

And while the scientist might be sexually confused, thankfully there’s no confusion about the commands and science required to get Rosetta to the comet.  It has been successful, with Rosetta achieving orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 Aug., 2014.  Rosetta itself has been trying to catch up with the comet for a little over 10 years, which is a long time for any scientist, sexually confused or otherwise, to wait.

For those who aren’t keeping track, but have some small interest, Rosetta is important in helping us Earthlings understand the state of our Solar System millions of years ago.  The comet it’s now orbiting potentially has information about the building blocks of the Solar System.  The next big step is to get the satellite’s lander, Philae, on to the comet’s surface sometime in November (the ESA are currently aiming for 11 Nov., 2014).  But, right now, the ESA is content with taking readings and images of the comet.

In January 2014, I posted a blurb about how ESA had awakened Rosetta for its approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  That seems like such a long time ago, and now here we are, with Rosetta orbiting the comet.  I’m not going to say it’s sexy, but it is pretty nifty.  I’m not that confused.

If you want to follow the Rosetta satellite’s path, from launch through comet intercept and beyond, you can always go to this website:  http://sci.esa.int/where_is_rosetta/.  It’s just a looping animation of the satellite’s path, and you can witness, virtually, the interception of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with Rosetta.  Of course, you can read more about Rosetta’s mission on the ESA website, too, which is linked to here.