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Rendezvous with a comet
August 6, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Today at approximately 08:45am GMT, the Rosetta spacecraft entered orbit of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a 10 year journey. Now in orbit 100km above the surface, Rosetta is already sending back amazing images of a rocky, rough rubber duck shaped comet.

Rosetta will now begin a series of orbital passes of the comet, moving closer and closer while selecting a landing site for the Philae Lander. Both Rosetta and Philae will stay with the comet as it approaches the inner solar system at 55,000 km/hr, becoming more active.

The arrival prompted an exchange via Twitter with Captain Kirk about the mission and the planned away team.

A replay of the livestream of the arrival is available from the ESA.

Rosetta previously (1, 2, 3) on Metafilter
posted by nubs (52 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly a crude model of a Firefly-class spaceship. Compare this with this.
posted by yoink at 9:37 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Clearly a crude model of a Firefly-class spaceship.

No, it's clearly space-Maui.
posted by The Tensor at 9:44 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


In one of the videos the speaker makes an off-hand comment that people will likely be printing models of the comet in their 3D printers.

That blows my mind.

We live in a world were a satellite can land on a celestial object 400 million km from Earth and then we can cheaply print an accurate three-dimensional model of it to show to our kids.

That's just amazing, is what that is.
posted by oddman at 9:44 AM on August 6 [35 favorites]


The Bad Astronomer's post was tweeted with the preface, "Comet! COMETCOMETCOMET!" I think he says it all.

Plus, they did it all without MechJeb, so well done, ESA!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:46 AM on August 6 [13 favorites]


Jaw dropping.

The Bad Astronomer has been tracking this. There's a series of posts showing progressively better images as Rosetta got nearer. Here's the first one, for contrast. (I was going to make a post pulling them out in series, but haven't got the time.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:48 AM on August 6


Nice going Jeb, now just hook up the Claw and drag that sucker back home.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:57 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


Man, looks like that thing has seen some shit!
posted by Naberius at 9:58 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


I was awake at 1am when the livestream started. I was thinking, "Oh, that's cool, I'll stay away and watch our little robot friend fall in line with the comet". Then it started, "In an hour and a half, we will witness..." and I decided to go to bed.

Thanks for putting together this post. I'd thought about it, but you did better than I would have.
posted by hippybear at 9:58 AM on August 6


Humans are pretty cool sometimes.
posted by bondcliff at 9:59 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


So cool.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:04 AM on August 6


ESA tweeted Shatner "No Red Shirts" - That is a lie.
What ever they land on that comet is never going to get off that comet.
The drone science station that they place on the comet is totally a red shirt.
posted by Flood at 10:13 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Historic, in that I'm pretty sure the guys who are calling Shatner "Captain" and talking about the "away team" are geeking out harder than anybody ever has in the entire history of our species.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:14 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


That's not a rubber duck - it's a giant space fetus, it's just a lil' blurry in the image.
posted by symbioid at 10:16 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


The Bad Astronomer has been tracking this
Money quote: "Space is big. That’s why we call it 'space.' "
posted by schmod at 10:18 AM on August 6


Comets: Where drones go to die.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:22 AM on August 6


From the comments in one of the posted links, here's a nice animated replay of the journey. On my mouse at least, scroll wheel zooms, left-mouse-drag rotates, right-mouse-drag pans. I find it quite dramatic to watch the orbital physics, thinking of the years going by.
posted by mrettig at 10:23 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


If we can land a robot on a speeding comet surely we can get our act together enough to make some progress against climate change or wealth inequality.
posted by COD at 10:25 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


It seems sad and blurry now, but this July 14 animated GIF is a nice depiction of the comet tumbling.

Playing Kerbal Space Program has given me a hands-on appreciation of the orbital mechanics involved in getting captured by a comet like this. It's just insane, particularly having to do something so precise with measurement error and time delays for commands.

I'm just sad that ISEE-3's rescue didn't completely work out. Another beautiful bit of orbital mechanics.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on August 6


We as a species seem to be good at aiming things and catching or smashing them. Consider that at CERN they take packets of 10^11 protons, squeeze them down to an area 16um x 16um, timed within 7.5 centimeters at nearly the speed of light... and collide them into a similar beam of particles... and almost all of them miss.... but when they do collide... science happens.

Here we've taken a spacecraft, launched it at a target moving 55,000 kph... and slowed to "orbit" it... amazing.

I'm just in awe of the whole scope of science.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:33 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Just wait until we see the door.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:39 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


"Comet 67-P has no atmosphere and no gravity to stop the lander bouncing off the comet as it touches down, two harpoons will fire into the surface and three screws on Philae's feet will burrow into the ice to anchor it to the ground."

Badass.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:39 AM on August 6 [9 favorites]


New Yorker article on the subject: Rosetta Meets the Comet. This is some pretty amazing engineering and I hope it all works as planned. Just putting a vehicle in orbit around a comet, as it plummets toward the sun, is an incredible first. The then landing a probe on it and basically taking X-Rays of the comet using the two vehicles is mind-blowingly ingenious. This single mission is going to blow away the sum total that we previously knew about comets' makeup, structure, and disintigration process.
posted by spock at 10:52 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


Nelson: “It's just insane, particularly having to do something so precise with measurement error and time delays for commands.”
I saw something saying that the approach of the probe affected the trajectory of the comet enough that they used the perturbations to calculate the mass of the object and thus the orbital maneuvers required to match trajectories. That's about the coolest thing I've ever heard.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:54 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


Comet 67-P has no atmosphere and no gravity...

Only half correct. "Very weak, weird-ass gravitational field" would've been more on the money.
posted by oxidizer at 11:22 AM on August 6


BBC's Discovery program on the World Service had a good episode on this rendezvous.
posted by idb at 11:32 AM on August 6


"If we can land a robot on a speeding comet surely we can get our act together enough to make some progress against climate change or wealth inequality."

One involves a relatively small team of specialists doing something that, though insanely impressive, impacts almost nobody else's interests. The other involves changing a huge number of interconnected systems which would disrupt the wealth and influence of wealthy and influential people and corporations (I know: redundant. Corporations=people.) I'd say a comet rendezvous is a walk in the park, relatively speaking.

Of course now that I've said that, I wonder if one would merge the two endeavors. The Rosetta team could, in theory, change the comet's trajectory and hold the Earth's climate policy for ransom. Hard carbon emissions caps or the Earth gets a direct hit.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:38 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


jetsetsc: Hard carbon emissions caps or the Earth gets a direct hit.

We don't negotiate with terrorists (except when we do).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:44 AM on August 6


The Bad Astronomer's post was tweeted with the preface, "Comet! COMETCOMETCOMET!"

he just likes saying "comet". "comet comet comet!"
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:55 AM on August 6




The Bad Astronomer's post was tweeted with the preface, "Comet! COMETCOMETCOMET!"

Find the Invisible Comet?
posted by tresbizzare at 12:13 PM on August 6


If we can land a robot on a speeding comet surely we can get our act together enough to make some progress against climate change or wealth inequality.

Certainly! Because engineering, building, and successfully deploying a machine that has the capabilities to take advantage of known and well-understood laws of physics is just like the redistribution of property between humans and manipulating the less well understood and controllable climate of a planet, isn't it?

See False Analogy (No. 22)
posted by spock at 12:16 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Man, looks like that thing has seen some shit!

actually, it seems relatively crater-free...probably a thick layer of fine snow hiding them...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:30 PM on August 6


I wonder what snow grown in Zero G looks like... I somehow doubt it grows in flat plates without all the moisture being supplied from 1 side during growth.
posted by MikeWarot at 12:41 PM on August 6


Well, it's not entirely unconnected to "wealth inequality", in that it relies on concentrating a fairly large amount of wealth in the hands of a few thousand people who then use it to do cool shit with rockets.
posted by sfenders at 12:49 PM on August 6


The question wasn't whether it was "connected" to wealth inequality but to "mak[ing] some progress against it". A little higher bar.
posted by spock at 12:55 PM on August 6


lumpenprole: "Just wait until we see the door."

Jeez, I hope it's not The Way, or we will be screwed.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:23 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


That's not a rubber duck - it's a giant space fetus, it's just a lil' blurry in the image.

The Eraserhead discussion is that way -->


In spaaaaaaace, everything is fine,
In spaaaaaaace, everything is fine,
In space, eeeeeeeverything is fine,
You've got your rubber ducky and I've got mine . . .
 
posted by Herodios at 1:27 PM on August 6


It seems sad and blurry now, but this July 14 animated GIF is a nice depiction of the comet tumbling.

The most recent GIF with a frame from today (3.6 MB GIF).
posted by iceberg273 at 1:40 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


actually, it seems relatively crater-free...probably a thick layer of fine snow hiding them...

They were just talking about that on the livestream, and you're not far off I guess. Although it would be more like condensed ice than snow. They say that the surface can change rapidly sometimes, with notable differences in shape over hours or days. The shape of craters would also be different (and less regular?) due to the relatively squishy nature of the comet compared to the craters we're used to seeing on the moon.
posted by sfenders at 1:56 PM on August 6


It's amazing that they got up there to take the pictures, but, really, how many pictures of barren ice and snow can you look at.
posted by empath at 2:48 PM on August 6


I distantly recall comets being described as "dirty snowballs" in a children's book about outer space.

Don't google dirty snowball.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:00 PM on August 6


... really, how many pictures of barren ice and snow can you look at.

It can be hard to understand what other people enjoy spending their time on.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:36 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


It's amazing that they got up there to take the pictures, but, really, how many pictures of barren ice and snow can you look at.

That's not fair -- lots of people like visiting North Dakota in the winter.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:42 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


See also: Film and Television Series entitled "Fargo"
posted by hippybear at 6:33 PM on August 6


... really, how many pictures of barren ice and snow can you look at.

It can be hard to understand what other people enjoy spending their time on.


But what if I love both space science and sports?

(Ironically not the Houston Astros, though.)
posted by graphnerd at 6:52 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


... really, how many pictures of barren ice and snow can you look at.

Also, this train ride (love this so much)
posted by hippybear at 7:03 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


But what if I love both space science and sports?
posted by graphnerd


I guess you could have been a fan of the Houston Eulers, but that stopped in 1997.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:54 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Breaking: NASA announces plan to intercept, orbit and probe wealth inequality.
posted by um at 9:59 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Even more appropriate if ESA announces those plans...
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on August 6


That Bergensbanen video looks amazing.

And now available in it's original 1080i ProRES glory!

A steal at 246 gigabytes.
posted by ambivalentic at 1:02 AM on August 7


"This single mission is going to blow away the sum total that we previously knew about comets' makeup, structure, and disintigration process."
posted by spock

Oh come on.
posted by marienbad at 9:47 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I know. "blow away"? There's no way Spock would be that emotional.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:32 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


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