All About Comet Landings
The Czar answers all your questions on the comet landing. We apologize if this gets slightly technical for the average reader, but bear with us.
Did we land on a comet or just crash into it and are calling it a landing?
Actually, we didn’t do anything: the European Space Agency (or AΣĘ) sent a spacecraft up like 10 years ago, and the spacecraft spat out a lander at the comet. The spacecraft is called Rosetta, the lander was called Philae, the assistant mission director was named Niklosz, and the instrument package was a series of Es with various umlauts.
So this was a European mission? They must be proud.
That’s not a question.
So this was a European mission? They must be proud, no?
Indeed, the head of the European Space Agency went on a rant boasting about the technical and engineering superiority of the Europeans, and how they totally smoked the Americans’ asses on this mission, and how they did it for a fraction of the cost, and thanks to good old-fashioned European know-how, they succeeded where we would have failed.
So what happened?
The whole thing screwed up seconds later. The Philae lander misfired its landing harpoons, the lander bounced hard into the comet, flipped up, and landed in a darkened crater pitched at an angle so badly that it isn’t getting any solar power to its batteries and is expected to die today. Also, Germany swung through Belgium and sacked France.
What are things like on the comet surface?
Basically, it’s a big pile of…well, you know when you’re driving your car in winter, and you see that Honda Civic with the missing windshield wiper and broken tail light, and the dude driving it has this massive chunk of inky black ice filth hanging off his rear wheel well, and you just know it’s going to drop off and slide into your car and damage the front of it? That chunk’s basically a comet.
So comets are basically chunks of filthy ice?
Yeah, but conveniently big enough to destroy Spain. Which in response to the Philae landing, threw out its government, established a pro-communist dictatorship, and is throwing the Jews out again.
Given this is the first ever landing on a comet, how much scientific data are we expected to obtain?
Take an original Xbox from 10 years ago, and jam it into a huge pile of dirt and ice in some abandoned parking lot very far from your home, and try to play the original Halo without using a controller. Know how fun that would be? Now switch out the word fun from that sentence, substitute it with the word scientific, and you have your answer.
What’s the difference between a comet and an asteroid?
Possibly very little. Many comets can establish themselves in stable orbits, and their surface compositions could be similar to some asteroids. Likewise, many asteroids can break loose from their orbits, get close to the sun, and burn out like icy comets. There are definite distinctions, but the two objects basically have the same origins: they’re the clods of bullion left over at the bottom of the soup pot.
What’s the difference between an asteroid and meteor?
This has nothing to do with comets. A meteroid is a chunk of rock drifting in space that’s headed for a planet. A meteor is that same chunk of rock when it burns up in the atmosphere. A meteorite is anything left that hits the ground. Contrary to popular belief, when meteorites do bounce into the ground, they rarely leave a crater, and they are almost ice-cold to the touch. They cool off rapidly when meteors, as the earth’s atmosphere slows them down a lot. A lot. When they slow down to a stop, they are at high altitudes that are extremely cold. As they plummet like a baseball to earth, at regular falling speeds, they continue to cool until they are icy cold. Meteorites are worth big money by the way, so grab a baseball mitt and sit out in your yard and wait for one all night. You could make a fortune.
The names are so cool! Rosetta! Philae! What’s the name of the comet?
C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, named after the Greek goddess of melodic rapture, C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.