The European Space Agency (known as ESA) completed two historic firsts last week. For starters, they achieved the first successful landing of a probe onto the surface of a comet.
The second historic moment came about a day later when they shattered the record for the shortest mission ever of a probe landing on a foreign object when the batteries conked out after less than a day. The Energizer Bunny it is not. And this was after flying more than 10 years in space and logging almost 4 billion miles. I hope they got their money’s worth.
ESA is trying to recoup some of the money they squandered on the adventure by putting the lander up for sale on eBay. It’s cheap, too. All you have to do is go get it. They will throw in the comet for free provided you promise not to put any tacky advertising on it like “Eat at Joe’s.”
You have to give them some credit. The mission only cost just a little under $2 billion, so you can’t say it was a total loss. A monumental loss certainly, but not a total one.
The spin-doctors are busy thinking up ways to make us believe it really wasn’t that much money. For example, they said the entire mission cost less than four brand-spanking new Airbus A380 superjumbo jets. This would be a valid comparison if you decided to smash all four jumbo jets to smithereens by flying them into a mountain after paying for them. That would make them as useless as the lander is now.
I saw one statistic, which claimed the Rosetta mission cost about half as much as the last U.S. election. Elections are notoriously expensive. Is that supposed to make people feel good or something? At least the election was more entertaining.
Desperately trying to downplay the money they blew on the mission, an Oxford professor even quipped that we have to realize that the money didn’t go to the comet, but was spent here on Earth, so it really wasn’t wasted. Well duh, I certainly hope the money didn’t go to the comet. If so, they have a lot of explaining to do.
In reality, a comet is just a large piece of rock left over from the birth of the solar system some 5 billion years ago with lots of ice on it. Many astronomers have likened it to a “dirty snowball” in space. Well, that would explain the main mission of the probe in the first place.
You see, the European Space Agency thought it would be a good idea to send a probe to clean up that “dirty snowball.” That explains why in addition to all the high-tech cameras, drills and analyzers, the lander was equipped with lots and lots of cans of, well, Comet cleanser.
Congratulations to this week’s winner, Melissa Wendle. She correctly guessed that “5 = T. on a F.” was “5 = Toes on the Feet.” The word “feet” was listed in last week’s column.
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