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Ep. 23, Page 26
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Comic 1757 - Ep. 23, Page 26

19th Nov 2014, 5:20 AM in Episode 23 :: Save My Place | Load My Place
Average Rating: 5 (1 votes)

Author Notes:

smbhax 19th Nov 2014, 5:20 AM edit delete
Some fascinating new details and developments have emerged in the saga of the ESA's Philae probe, which made mankind's first-ever landing on a comet last week—a very bumpy landing! The lander's mother ship, Rosetta, in orbit around the comet, had a pretty good view of the action, and we now have a composite image showing its view of the landing and following bounce, which sent the 100 kg lander on an unexpected two hour, 1 km-high loop back up into space; they figure that for it to have bounced that much, the surface must have been much harder than they'd expected, with very little soft dust covering water ice having what is thought to be the tensile strength of sandstone. The probe came to rest hundreds of meters away from the intended landing spot, in a shadow-covered area where its solar panels don't get enough sunlight to keep it going—kind of a huge bunker shot, really, to throw in an unnecessary sports analogy!

But before its charge died, it did get to conduct some experiments on its surroundings, and the data coming out of those is pretty interesting! It detected organic molecules in the comet's extremely thin atmosphere, which means it sniffed carbon compounds of the type that, when brought together under conditions like we had on the primitive Earth—say warm, moist, and hit with a lightning bolt or two—are thought to be capable of forming self-replicating structures: the beginning of life as we know it! Well that's just a theory, but finding them on this comet strengthens the further theory that comets played a role in bringing the building blocks of life to Earth.

Philae's hammer test suggests that it landed in a 10-20 cm-deep layer of dust over that sandstone-strength water ice. The lander's drill did not find organic molecules like the sniffer did, but the lander is laying on its side somehow, and they aren't sure the drill actually got into the surface.

The last article also mentions a theory that once the comet gets close enough to the Sun, the lander will start getting enough sunlight to power up again...hopefully with time to do some more testing before it melts. : o


moizmad 19th Nov 2014, 10:43 AM edit delete reply
"...and then feed me, I'm getting powerful hungry here!"
smbhax 20th Nov 2014, 2:27 AM edit delete reply