Friday, November 14, 2014

Philae on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: Kudos!

(From European Space Agency, used w/o permission.)
(ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, as Philae lander touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (November 12, 2014))

Those humans had good reason for being cheerful. They were at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany — and were getting 'I'm here' signals from their Philea lander.

Kudos, humanity: one of your robots landed on a comet. Granted — Philae bounced a few times, fetched up, maybe on its on its side, and definitely not where it should be — but it's working, sending back data, and may have enough power in its battery to last until tomorrow afternoon. Maybe longer.

It could have been a lot worse: and is pretty good for a first try.

"...The Key Issue Vexing Controllers..."

(From European Space Agency, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Some radio data suggests the probe may be about 1km from the intended landing site"
(BBC News))
"Rosetta: Battery will limit life of Philae comet lander"
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (November 13, 2014)

"After a historic but awkward comet landing, the robot probe Philae is now stable and sending pictures - but there are concerns about its battery life.

"The lander bounced twice, initially about 1km back out into space, before settling in the shadow of a cliff, 1km from its intended target site.

"It may now be problematic to get enough sunlight to charge its battery systems....

"...Telemetry indicates it is on a slope or perhaps even on its side.

"Certainly, one of its three feet is not in contact with the surface.

"The key issue vexing controllers right now is the lighting conditions.

"Philae is receiving about 1.5 hours of illumination during every 12-hour rotation of the comet.

"This will be insufficient to top up its battery system once the primary charge it had on leaving Rosetta runs out. That was some 60-plus hours...."
The Lemming appreciates that phrase: "...the key issue vexing controllers...."

To "vex" is "to annoy, as with petty importunities."

Sure, Philae may not last as long as mission planners hoped: but it landed, is in one piece, and still on speaking terms with its orbiter. This is pretty much good news.

From what the Lemming's read, nine of 10 experiment packages Philae carries are in good shape: and scientists may even get a chance to use the lander's drill.

Besides, what is it you humans say? "Any landing you walk away from is a good one." Philae has "legs," but couldn't walk anyway: the point is that this robot landed.

Philae didn't crash. It's still got power, and mission planners have most of a day before the batteries run out. Maybe engineers will get the robot right-side-up and in full sunlight before then. Even if they don't, right now it looks like the Rosetta lander will get some serious science done before it's done.

Optimists, Pessimists, and the Lemming

Someone said that an optimist sees a glass that's half-full, a pessimist sees one that's half-empty, and an engineer sees one that's twice as big as it needs to be.

From the Lemming's viewpoint, some news about Philae's landing was written by pessimists who see the glass as half-empty and leaking. Not that BBC piece. Jonathan Amos did okay.

And of course there's the usual kvetching about how many resources were 'wasted' on the Rosetta mission, instead of being spent on the reporter's — or, more likely, editor's — pet peeve.

The Lemming thinks you humans deserve a Lemming's 'thumbs up' for a job well-done, on the Rosetta mission so far. There's more to life than landing on comets, of course: but you've got brains, and in this case you used them.

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