We have just watched history in the making. The Rosetta spacecraft has just successfully landed a robot (Philae) on a comet 3.1 billion miles from my house. This spacecraft, launched by the European Space Agency 10 years ago, has travelled at 23,000 miles per hour and the landing is the first human object to be landed on a comet. The comet (P67) is 2.5 miles wide.
As we watched the control center for the ESA stare at their computers, waiting for news of the landing, we too were transfixed. It is incredible that humans have landed a robot on a small piece of rock some 3 billion miles away.
But, I am also fascinated at the vision, the tenacity, the cooperation and the patience this project has taken. The project was started 25 years ago. The spaceship was launched 10 years ago. During the10 year journey, the ship was put to sleep for 2.5 years to save it’s energy, only to be reawakened in January to continue it’s communication with the earth. During it’s absence from radio contact with the earth, it travelled some 2.5 billion miles.
And the project was accomplished by the cooperation of 20 different countries in Europe and support from the US, Canadian and Australian Space Agencies.
I was delighted to watch some good news. So much of what we see makes us worry about human nature. But this experience lifted my hopeful spirit. When humans care, when humans cooperate, when humans see possibilities and thousands of people cooperate to make something good happen, it is amazing what we can do.
I know that it is naive to assume that such cooperation will happen in all areas of human concern, but this is a testimony to what humans can do if we put our minds to it.