Thursday, November 13, 2014

Updates

No, not my updates. Updates on a couple of things that have been on my blog.

1. The Virgin Galactic crash.

The surviving pilot has been talked to and he said the co pilot did not announce that he was going to unlock the feathering system. Call and confirm is standard practice for even some very routine practices when flying an airplane. Had Alsbury "called" then Siebold would have been able to tell him he was early. (There is, of course, the possibility that Siebold did not hear him for some reason).

This makes it more likely that Alsbury unlocked the system by accident - which may necessitate a cockpit redesign.

2. Rosetta.

Oops. Well. We knew landing on a comet was going to be tricky. Philae landed, but the harpoons designed to secure her to the comet did not deploy. She bounced back off and landed again, at an angle and in a crater. The robot is sending good data, but is not in a good position. The real problem is that she's in shadow and won't be able to get enough light to her solar panels to recharge her batteries, which only have a 60 hour initial life. If the team can't work out a way to move Philae to a better position, then she's going to go dark.

What she's sent back include these startling images of what comets look like close up. Whichever part of the comet she's on (which they aren't sure), we have good pictures of it.

Hopefully they'll be able to work something out, which might include using the harpoons or Philae's sampling drill to push her off the surface again in the hope that she hits in a better position. We probably aren't going to get all of the data we wanted - including the ice samples. Still, some science is being done.

And for such a tricky mission and a first attempt, I still think they did very well.