The First Comet Landing

One of the most interesting and informative TED talks I’ve seen in awhile, Fred Jansen, the manager of the Rosetta mission shows that landing on a comet is as easy as rocket science. Events like this push our limits by uniting individuals of all scientific communities together in an effort to discover the major breakthroughs of modern day science. The Philae lander of the Rosetta mission landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November of 2014. The level of science and technology that went into calculating this landing is truly an enormous feat. Said best by Jansen himself, “We had to know the velocity of Rosetta much better than one centimeter per second, and its location in space better than 100 meters at 500 million kilometers from earth.”

So what was the significance of all this? Why did the scientists of the Rosetta mission all come together just to land this lander on some comet in space? The answer lies in a theory behind the creation of the galaxy and Earth itself. Based off of measurements collected from Halley’s comet and Comet Hyakutake, there is evidence behind the theory that comets brought water and organic material to Earth during the early days of the galaxy. If this is actually the case, then studying the composition of a relatively younger comet can give very important information on the scientific history of the universe.

Above is the sound of the first ever comet landing. Philae was equipped with all the instruments possible in order to extract as much scientific information as we can comprehend currently. According to sources from space.com Philae has discovered organic material on this comet which gives further evidence for the theory behind comets contributing the earliest sources of life to Earth.

If this is truly the case then the implications for this are huge. Further scientific research and discovery in terms of comets are absolutely boundless. This gives more grounds for understanding the possibility for extraterrestrial life as well as other homes for humans. While we are awaiting more information to come from Philae as it is logging back on to its servers, this feat really is as amazing as it sounds and the opportunities it provides in the future are countless.

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Photo taken by Rosetta Mission before landing.

What does all this have to do with the African Cosmos? Below is a photo an old African stamp that depicts Halley’s comet passing through the sky.

Old stamp collected from Malawi. Matthew V. Cassetta. 2012.
Old stamp collected from Malawi. Matthew V. Cassetta. 2012.

This shows that cultural African astronomy has seen and understand the presence of comets. It is even more important that they realized that Halley’s comet was important enough to feature on a postal stamp. It is left for us to wonder what sorts of explanations and tales that were inspired by the sight of Halley’s comet which passed about every 75 years. Now that we actually have data and information because we have landed on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it would be interesting to compare what we know and what the cultural astronomers of Africa believed.

Sources:

Burtnyk, Kimberly M. “Did Comets Bring Water to Earth? | EarthSky.org.” EarthSky. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Cassetta, Matthew V. “Cosmos Diary.” Cosmos Diary. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

Kramer, Miriam. “Philae Lander Sniffed Out Organics in Cometu0027s Atmosphere | Space.com.” Space. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Mack, Eric. “Hear the Sound of the First Comet Landing – CNET.” CNET. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Phillips, Tony, Dr. “How to Land on a Comet – NASA Science.” How to Land on a Comet – NASA Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

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