Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And Now, For Our Next Trick...

So, we landed on a comet. What do we do for an encore?

Well, eventually we land on another comet, and do it even better.  But it will take time to figure out why what went wrong went wrong, and design and fund another mission, and get there. This will take years, but comets will still be there when we are ready to launch. We can, and must, and will be patient. We will play the long game. When we do it again it will be easier to do better because we will have learned in the interim.

In the meantime, I will quote the admirable Emily Lakdawalla, who did good service covering the Philae landing on twitter.
Coming up soon: Japan launches Hayabusa 2, an asteroid sample return mission, on November 30. New Horizons wakes up to begin encounter science for its Pluto flyby on December 6 (the flyby itself is next July). Dawn will get its first images of Ceres in February, and they'll already be better than Hubble's. Curiosity is doing the kind of science it was intended to do for only the third time on its mission, at a spot called Pahrump Hills in Gale crater. Opportunity is very close to the peak of the mountainous crater rim it's been climbing for a couple of years. Cassini has been on a high-inclination orbit at Saturn for a long time, but will soon be switching into an equatorial orbit that means lots more views and close flybys of Saturn's mid-sized icy moons. There's a lot going on!! But some sad things are coming -- both MESSENGER at Mercury and Venus Express at Venus are expected to crash into their respective planets within the next few months, ending those long missions (they've both nearly run out of maneuvering fuel).
Less immediately, in 2016 Juno arrives at Jupiter. And OSIRIS-REx launches, also intended to visit an asteroid and bring back samples.

We launch, and launch again. It's a great life, if you don't weaken.

These are the days of miracle and wonder...

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