ESA gathers vital data from comet landing

Courtesy Photo
Spacecraft Philae

History was made on Wednesday when a European rover landed on a comet for the first time.

The spacecraft, called Philae, had traveled with the Rosetta spacecraft for 10 years, making its way out to the Jupiter system, according to The Boston Globe. Rosetta traveled concurrently with the comet, observing and analyzing until Philae launched from the craft and landed on the comet, called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Despite a somewhat rocky landing, the craft was able to gather information for a span of nearly three days before the machine’s battery died. Solar panels will recharge the rover, which can then transmit the rest of its images to Earth for close inspection by scientists.
Researchers from the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the craft in 2004. Philae is designed to take samples and photos of the comet in an attempt to help decipher universal origins. Scientists believe that comets may have carried organic matter and water to Earth, assisting or prompting the evolution process.

If comets did impact evolution, there is much to be gained by studying them. Until Philae landed, scientists had not previously had such a close interaction with the interstellar beings, despite numerous ventures outside our atmosphere.
Since 1969, there have been six manned moon landings, dozens of missions to Venus and Mars and the International Space Station has been floating above the earth since 1998.

The United States has had the privilege, over the years, to be one of the world leaders of space exploration. With the economic recession, however, the government decided to cut funding to NASA. No longer does the American government fund testing and put spacecraft into orbit; that task has been left to private investors.

Conner Miller, a senior international studies and economics double major, has been kept up with the progress of the Philae craft. With two generations of his family involved in space exploration with NASA, Miller finds the lack of governmental
backing unwise.

“It does not look good that we have fallen so far behind in space exploration. By ignoring space and underfunding NASA, we set ourselves back not only in the space race but also the tech race,” Miller said. “Technology and innovation have been the strength of America for generations, and to remain a leader in technology, we also must return to being a leader in the exploration of the unknown and unraveling the mysteries of the galaxy.”