On November 12, 2014, The European Space Agency (ESA) Philae lander touched down on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This event marked the first time that man-made object soft landed on a comet.
As is common for such spectacular firsts, everything did not go as planned. The Philae lander took a hard bounce on the initial touch and veered significantly off course. The lander eventually settled on the comet surface, but the actual location remains unknown.
Based on pictures sent back from the lander, another problem was discovered. The lander landed either in a ditch or up against a cliff wall. While this location is suitable for someone trying to find shade during a hot Georgia afternoon, the location is far from optimal when the only available electricity originates from solar power. On November 15, the lander dropped into hibernation mode as the last of its energy was exhausted.
On June 19, 2015, the Philae lander re-established contact with the Rosetta orbiter. ESA mission leaders indicate that as the comet moves closer to the sun, an increase in sunlight levels allowed the batteries to recharge. The truth turns out to be something completely different…
“Now what was I doing,” thought Kinlyn as she looked across the patch. To her, this whole episode was disturbing. For several turns, she searched for the perfect place to soak in the sun. The thoughts began to snowball.
“Honestly, is there any better place to vacation than a comet as it goes through perigee? Of course not! The interstellar dust mixed with traces of water vapor… it’s cleaning to the body and soul. And you can’t forget the spectacular views. So many think that a comet is beautiful from afar, but to see its brilliance up close is unimaginable.”
“Of course, nowadays you have to find the right comet. So many comets have over-built or over-commercialized. Don’t get me wrong… I love being able to hop over to the grab-a-snack, but have you seen the number of high rises they’ve build on Haley’s? It used to be the best, but now the dust cleansing… it just doesn’t seem any different than getting sand in your eyes. Ugh… it’s nearly as bad as Mars.”
Finally, Kinlyn found the right place on 67P. It’s virtually uninhabited, excepting a couple space monkeys live on the far side. (The monkeys are never a problem.) The timing was also good. The comet still had nine months before perigee, more than enough time to settle in for good cleansing. Kinlyn set up camp and began to prepare for comet’s perigee. As she was marking off the ground, Kinlyn looked up and saw a three-legged object slowly falling from the sky.
“Oh my goodness, what is that doing here?”
Kinlyn immediately recognized it as something from Earth. “Those Earth-doofus-heads! It’s bad enough that they junk up their own planet! Now they’re exporting junk to the rest of the worlds?!? Somebody needs to do something!”
It’s really unfortunate that Philae caught Kinlyn in a bad mood. Kinlyn really isn’t a bad Jovian. Yes, she has somewhat of a temper. But by Earth standards, all Jovians are a bit short fused. It has to do with their upbringing. Being from Jupiter, the entire Jovian race lives under a great deal of pressure.
Spoiling a Jovian vacation is not a smart thing either. Jupiter’s gravity is approximately 2.5 times stronger than Earth’s. Quite literally, the Jovians have a very difficult time getting away. So when they are able to finally separate themselves from their everyday life, the Jovians can get a little cranky if something goes wrong. For instance, if an Earthman-made piece of space junk lands in the middle of a cleansing patch a few months before perigee.
“This thing has got to go!” Kinlyn allowed the lander to bounce. On the rebound, she wanted to give it a little extra push. Not enough of a push to send it back to space, but just enough to move the lander away from this place. Unfortunately, she pushed too hard. Kinlyn was quite surprised with her strength. Even with the reduced gravity, that lander went much higher and much further than expected. Kinlyn smiled.
“Well, I guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
The lander came to rest next to a cliff and shaded from the sun. After a few days, the batteries drained completed. Philae sat in the dark. Cold. Lifeless. Abandoned. Well, not quite abandoned. On the top of the ridge lived a community of space monkeys. The space monkey is a precious creature. And very curious. At first, the community was startled by the alien craft crashing into the ground. They quickly became fascinated with the whirling gears and blinking lights. When Philae stopped moving, the monkeys became sad. Had the craft become too cold? Maybe if they just move it back into the sun…