The $1.6 billion project that started nearly a decade ago will finally yield some results and proved insight into the nature of the world that has never been dreamt of. The robot probe Philae landed on the comet on Thursday, November 13, marking the end of its 500 million kilometer journey that started 10 years ago. However, the landing did not go as smoothly as imagined. Scientists were concerned to find that the probe actually bounced off twice before landing on the surface of the comet. Furthermore, when it finally landed, the photos taken by the probe indicated that it was next to a large cliff that actually blocked out the sunlight from reaching two of the three solar panels on the probe, meaning that the batteries would eventually be depleted and all the systems of the probe would shut down.
However, the ingenious scientists were able to take two risky maneuvers on November 14th in an attempt to save the comet from its inevitable demise. Both processes had very big risks that could have jeopardized the whole operation, whether they were pushing the probe out into the void space, or toppling it over. As T. S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” This was the case for the Philae probe, since risks were necessary to keep the operation going, and only in continuing the operation could the boundaries of science and astrophysics as we know it be pushed to a whole new level.
The two maneuvers that were made were tilting the rotation angle on the probe by approximately 35 degrees and the bigger risk was in actually attempting to move the probe as a whole to a better location. It is unclear whether these maneuvers have succeeded in resolving the problem, but scientists will soon discover if the risks were worth it. Many people are criticizing the flaws of the operation and how it should have been much more guaranteed, and to this the flight director Andrea Accomazzo says, “Let us look at things that we have done, what we have achieved and what we have on the ground. This is unique and will be unique forever.”
This is a major step to advancements in science, astrophysics, and discoveries that could help us in understanding how humans and our universe came to exist in the first place. This is because comets are believed to carry organic compounds that are so old that they are almost like time capsules from the beginning of our solar system. By studying these comets, our understanding of human evolution and our building blocks could finally become clear. Nevertheless, we should take these scientific achievements one day at a time, just like Abraham Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
Nevertheless, we must take a step back and question whether $1.6 billion invested in such a project is worth the money, because as we all know, our planet faces other significant global issues, ranging from global warming all the way to poverty.
A video on the landing of the comet as well as other pictures of the journey can be found in the link below:
By Ali Badr