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This past week one of the most amazing Space related scientific and engineering feats of my generation was accomplished. In 2004 a spacecraft was launched into space and after 10 years worth of maneuvers it has rendezvoused and successfully orbited a fast-moving comet. If this wasn’t enough, it has approached and mapped the comet and after careful planing, it has deployed a lander which made a soft(ish) landing on a fast-moving object with close to no gravity of its own.
The landing itself was nothing short of epic, with the lander bouncing two times before settling down, mainly because neither the propulsion system that was meant to push Philae down was working, but also because the Harpoons also failed to deploy. Despite all this Philae did finally land but, as luck would have it, its final landing spot provided a less than ideal sunlight exposure, which means the energy regeneration process was severely undermined, leaving Philae with whatever energy his main battery had to collect as much scientific data as possible - which it did.
I also absolutely loved the way ESA handled communications with the public, with both the Rosetta and Philae twitter accounts providing a more than touching narrative, as you can see below.
This, along the absolutely gorgeous Once upon a time animation, the Ambition Short-film and the Vangelis composed musics made for an absolutely epic package to an amazing feat and definitely gave ESA one of its most beautiful and amazing moments. Everyone must and should be proud, those guys achieved what very few people will ever do, and to put things into the right perspective, we’re talking about a € 1.4bn project, which sounds like a lot on its own, but really, it’s not, but don’t trust me, check out the excellent breakdown over at Sciencogram and judge for yourself. A lot of times I’m almost absolutely sure our spending criteria are completely upside down.
For my part, I wanted to do something to mark the occasion, on very very very ridiculously small-scale of course, so the header for this post shows a 3D model of both the comet and Rosetta on a very very very unscientific orbit. It’s highly inaccurate, but it involved a bit of work and however amateur, it’s my way of showing how much in awe I am about this whole project. Hope it doesn’t break too many browsers out there.