Scientists at the European Space Agency announced this week that they had, for the first time in history, successfully landed a spacecraft on a comet.
Somewhere in the vastness of space, roughly 311 million miles from our home planet, there is a gigantic mass of frozen rock and ice hurtling through nothingness at about 41,000 miles per hour. If that doesn’t put you in awe of human accomplishment, I would hate to have to buy a gift for you.
If you’re struggling, as I do so often, to determine whether our Earth could possibly be more than 6,000 years old, this comet could contain good news for you. The material within it has remained virtually unchanged for roughly 4.5 billion years – meaning samples from the comet could reveal valuable intelligence about the composition of a much younger universe.
Beyond being an immensely valuable source of scientific information, this comet landing reflects a rare glimmer of positivity in what is otherwise news saturated by the blues.
Humanity has broken free from Earth in a sterling fashion, doing incredible things that aim to answer the big questions, like, “what do we come from?” Conventional science answers that question in a way less like science and more like something you may find tattooed on the ribcage of a self-proclaimed free spirit: “We are all stardust.”
Stardust refers to the elements propelled forth by exploding stars, and at the formation of the universe. It is these elements which eventually gave rise to life.
I’m not here to argue that point with you, but if you think it’s wholly incorrect, I would invite you to stop reading, retire to a quiet room and very carefully examine your presumptions about the way the universe works. Then, watch every episode of “Cosmos” currently available on Netflix.
The only downside in the landing of a spacecraft on a comet is that it was achieved by the European Space Agency, not the North American Space Agency. Thanks, Obama.
If NASA hadn’t been losing budget money in favor of bailing out banks and fighting wars, the Stars and Stripes could be waving proudly on yet another celestial body, validating America’s claim as the greatest nation in the universe.
At least we beat the Europeans to Mars, where an American-made moon rover continues to transmit fascinating information about our only hope for the colonization of space, and the continuation of this American way of life. Checkmate, Europe.
Every few years, a newspaper or otherwise credible source will publish an article about the alarmingly poor performance of American kids in the fields of math and science. If Mars moon rovers and comet landings can’t make interested scientists out of America’s youth, I fear for our future.
It’s the role of the media to go a step beyond saying, “hey everyone, a spacecraft just landed on a comet!” We need to be saying, “hey everyone, a spacecraft just landed on a comet, please allow us to present the myriad of reasons why that is totally awesome.” Through the reliable and accurate dissemination of such important information, even us journalists can have a hand in producing the kind of kids we need to beat Europe at science for years to come.
Despite my insistence to make this a competition, it isn’t. What this landing represents is humanity’s foray into the unknown – an amazing representation of our ability to leave Earth in the background, in pursuit of knowledge. It is my hope that we can continue to push the boundaries of what we already know – after all, they say that one way or another, you always end up right back where you started. For us, that place is somewhere among the stars.