Cobra in the Sun
Historic comet soft-landing — 1–2–3
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Philae lander, the first robot geologist to soft-land (as opposed to impacting) onto a comet, made its historic landing recently on 12 November 2014. It made three landings due to apparent failure of two redundant systems which were to firmly fix the lander onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P, for brevity). One system is rocket thrusters firing to force the lander onto the surface to counteract the landing bounce and the other, a harpoon system, to firmly anchor the lander onto the surface. The lander rebounded due to the extremely low gravity (about 1/50,000 that of Earth) quite high, and with a hang time which American football punters can only envy, to land and again bounce though in much less spectacular fashion. Less spectacular but if there was video to witness it would have been no less exciting since that bounce nearly had the lander leave the confines of the comet entirely!
ESA caught a fortunate break though and the lander found its way to the comet’s surface though not quite on all three legs and in a shadow which will greatly reduce the solar panel recharge rate. Although the lander performed experiments, sending its precious and unique data to the mothership Rosetta, the batteries are now drained placing Philae in standy mode. Who knows, as 67P continues on its orbital path around the Sun the shadow may diminish allowing Philae to accomplish its drilling and increase the amount of data gathered.
It is remarkable to think of the Wright Brothers flight barley over a century ago and we are now landing probes on comets after their years of travel across millions of miles. Well done ESA!
Who owns that history?
Last week Ross Sharp (of Shortfinals’s Blog) tweeted this photo, below, of the splendid de Havilland DH60 Gipsy Moth which was, at the time, in the Milestones of Flight exhibit in the RAF Museum Hendon (now RAF Museum London). Ross is a dear friend of aviation’s history and energetic advocate as well. So, it was amazing to read a certain aeronautical group demand that everyone remove that group’s name from all the retweets. There was no explanation for their action though except their previous behaviour of usurping the role of Gipsy Moth patriarchs may have something to do with it.
How odd that this group, in one of the countries on the Allied side of World War II, demand a restriction on the freedom of speech? We could understand a request of course — but what was sent was a demand as blatant as having a bucket of water sloshed into the face to recall tweets for editing. We do have them to thank, however, of reminding us of this freedom even though it might be exercised to act the fool. Also, to illustrate that history belongs to everyone to caretake but to no one in particular.
Ross has been tweeting more photos than can be imagined…follow him on Twitter using @GRossSharp to see and enjoy them.
Veterans Day 2014
Here we are at another Veterans Day where most of us welcome a day of sales or, perhaps, a day off of work. Only a few percent of our population in the U.S. have connection with military service with the vast majority neatly isolated from its dedication, professionalism, danger, and vast distances between loved ones. Enjoy the holiday, it is natural to do of course, but recall those who serve in the military today and give thanks.
Seahawk coasting along KauaiThere are times when people get paid to enjoy life — as this Black Knight crew must be :)
Aircraft Carrier in Straits
The Straits of Hormuz, as you likely know, is as strategic as it can be crowded as we see a small fishing vessel cutting across the bows of the aircraft carrier USS George W. Bush. Aircraft carriers of the CVN type are strategic assets all on their own so they are accompanied by several other ships making up a task force. As noted in the war game Harpoon — the only problem greater than having an aircraft carrier is not having an aircraft carrier.