November 13, 2014
11:00 AM I am writing this as I wait for the first images to arrive at the Cologne control center from Philae on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This receipt will be more amazing than those terribly black and white images beamed back from the first moon landing*.
11:15 AM Amazing to me is the incredibly difficult math involved to calculate the path Rosetta had to take to intercept the comet, match its tumbling motion, and place its child, Philae ever-so-delicately on its surface. One cannot say “landing” because the gravitational attraction is so minimal that they'll have to fire a harpoon to anchor her to the surface.
11:30 AM I can’t believe how calm everyone seems to be as the moment approaches. Yeah, I know whatever event takes place has been delayed by a 300 million mile journey – seven hours in the past – but the NOW, when we will actually witness first light is historic, monumental, incredible, and a lot of explanatory words I simply can’t think of at the moment because my bladder insists I leave the screen while my mind says “Stay and watch.” I just know that something will happen the instant I leave.
11:45 AM Something must be wrong (and I am not talking about my bladder.) There's a group assembling in the center of the room while others are taking seats. There's a bit of engineer hand-waving, some head nodding, and arms crossing, Nobody seems to be racing for the bathroom to relieve their nervousness. The tension is electric and WHY THE HELL IS THERE NO VOICE OVER EXPLAINING WHAT IS GOING ON?
Oops! They cut the live feed and now announce there will be a press briefing at 1300 so I can finally run to the bathroom.
01:00 PM No press conference. A quick tour of the internet reveals no illuminating information about our poor lander. Lunch and back to working on the novel revisions.
02:30 PM Apparently I forgot to remind myself and the conference is underway. Lots of data received they announce happily. There's a gleeful announcement that Philae bounced twice (just like any toddler) but everyone overjoyed that it landed somewhere. Bottom line: I have to wait till morning to learn more.
All in all an exciting day, made even more special by the many, many references to science fiction, quotes from Star Trek, and the smiles on the scientists' faces. No matter what happens on the morrow this was a monumental achievement for the human race.
Now, back to work.
*Well, at least the technology will be better