Comet Landing: It’s This Generation’s Lunar Landing

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Handout picture taken by the Rosetta space probe shows the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Photo via phys.org
Handout picture taken by the Rosetta space probe shows the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Photo via phys.org

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

Holy smokes, call your mother, we landed on a freakin’ comet 317 million miles from home. I was hopping around yesterday shouting, “We landed on a comet! Forget being an English major, study physics!”

Last night I took my kids outside, pre-polar-vortex (or whatever they’re calling the season formerly known as “winter” this year) and it was a clear night so you could easily see the stars and I pointed up at the stars as the dog lunged after a vole or something and spun me around and I went cups over teakettle and landed, spluttering, “We just landed on a comet somewhere out there, kids, isn’t that EPIC, not to mention SPECTACULAR? Hashtag #cometlanding!” And they were like, “Mmm-hmmm. Gee, Mom, if you say so.”  I was like, “Quit surreptitiously playing Minecraft on your iPhone under your parka, son, there is history being made in space.

It’s their generation’s lunar landing, if only they could tear their eyes off Kim Kardashian’s internet-breaking. Sure she can balance a glass of Champagne on her behind. So can my dog, with Photoshop.

It’s dazzling, the math involved in the Rosetta Mission. The ten-years-in-the-making chutzpah of an international group of scientists all of them with thick early-80s James Bond accents and some of them wearing scarves. Watch live-streaming from the European Space Agency, I was glued to it for hours, starting Wednesday when the landing gear was having problems and I was questioning my fashion sense (where was my scarf?) and shaking my fist at my genetics, my poor math skills inherited from my father who gets nervous figuring out a restaurant tip. I could have been a European space scientist! Hashtag #rebouncing!

We — who only a couple hundred generations ago were living in caves, and beating each other with clubs, and then grew up to play golf on the moon  —  are now landing on comets. Way to go, science. You can even follow Rosetta’s chatty little lander Philae on Twitter: @Philae2014. See? English majors are still needed, to tell the story of this incredible space odyssey. Turn the volume up! 



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