August 6, 2014

ESA Rosetta approaches comet and reminds us that Rocks are Not Dead!


Media Image Released by European Space Agency

Philosopher Alan Watts once said Rocks are Not Dead and that they are ‘just as much a part of us as our fingernails’. In the universe there are three types of rocks  – comets, asteroids and meteroids.  In the next few months our understanding of comets will (hopefully) grow in interesting ways thanks to a rendezvous that just occured nearly 4 billion miles from Earth.

Rosetta Meet Churyumove-Gerasimenko
Every so often a scientific-engineering event captures our imagination and reminds us that we live on a rock floating in a vast universe – and that these rocks are indeed as much a part of the circle of life as microbes, plants, humans and animals.   Today (August 6, 2014) that event involves a spacecraft closing in on a comet located billions of miles from Earth.

Spacecraft Rosetta is closing in on Comet Churyumove-Gerasimenko and preparing for a 17 month orbit.  Congratulations go to the European Space Agency (ESA) on this milestone for its Rosetta (Twitter; Project site) spacecraft.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta has traveled billions of miles including a 2 1/2 year hibernation before arriving within the orbit Comet Churyumove-Gerasimenko on August 6, 2014.

In the coming months Rosetta will orbit the comet to find a suitable landing site for its Philae lander which will anchor on the surface of Churyumov in November 2014.  Rosetta will continue to orbit the comet for 17 months as it travels closer to the sun and ‘wakes’ up to the sun’s heat and reveals the signature comet tail of melting ice.

Philae landing simulation

Videos to Learn More

Chasing a Comet 


Comets are key to understanding the deep mysteries of the emergence and origin of life within universe.  Panspermia hypothesis suggests that comets have been key in delivering water and basic organic building blocks of carbon-based life. (Watch NatGeo Special on Comets – 45 min)

Alan Watts – Rocks are not Dead! 

Rocks are Not Dead!  
(Mixed clips with layered visuals from lectures)


More complete and continuous clip (with terrible mouth animation!)

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