Mothers are Still Mothers, Even When Light Years Away

stories of a world gone mad, barrycurrin.comApparently, life on a comet is not vastly different from life on earth.

Back in 2004, the European Space Agency launched a space orbiter called Rosetta. Aboard Rosetta was Philae – a lander about the size of a washing machine.

The mothership and little Philae were on their way to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Their journey together would take 10 years. During that time, they would fly by Mars, a couple of asteroid belts and heaven knows what else. I’m sure they both learned a lot along the way.

In August, 2014, they reached the comet and began to orbit it. Shortly thereafter, Rosetta said goodbye to Philae and sent him toward the comet’s surface. I don’t suppose spaceships cry, but if they do, I am certain Rosetta bawled her eyes out when she sent Philae off to touch down on a comet where no lander has ever gone before. At the same time, I know she never would try to stop him. It was his destiny.

In November, Philae landed on Comet 67P. But, there was a problem. The harpoon mechanism that was supposed to stop Philae in place didn’t deploy correctly, and he went skipping past his intended landing area.

So, instead of setting up shop in the sunlight required to operate his solar powered system, Philae skidded into darkness.

The first night away from home, and the kid ends up on the wrong side of the comet in a neighborhood mom knows nothing about.

It gets worse. According to scientists, it was -35 degrees Celsius in Philae’s neck of the woods way out there on Comet P67.

Meanwhile, all Rosetta could do was orbit and wait for her phone to ring.

One minute she could assume no news is good news and muster the strength to assure herself he was okay. The next, I am sure she feared he was hanging out with some of that Russian space junk we’re always hearing about hurtling through space. Did he pack his coat? Is he eating right?

Situations like this almost always end well, though. And Philae’s was no exception. Last Saturday — after 7 months of silence – he woke up and sent a “hello” message to Rosetta, according to the space agency. Apparently, Philae soaked up enough sun rays to allow him to transmit the message.

As a parent, I know what Rosetta felt when she got that message. And, as a child, I can relate to how Philae reacted when he heard his mother’s voice. As we would expect in the 21st Century, the two communicated on twitter for all the world to see. Here is their exchange:

Philae: “Hello Rosetta! I’m awake! How long have I been asleep?”

Rosetta: “Hello Philae! You’ve had a long sleep, about 7 months!”

Philae: “Wow Rosetta! That’s a long time… time for me to get back to work!”

Rosetta: “Need to check you’re fit, healthy and warm enough first Philae! Take it easy for now.”

Philae: “Oh, OK Rosetta! I’m still a bit tired anyway… talk to you later! Back to life on a comet!”

Now, I don’t know if these spaceships are sophisticated enough to send their own messages like this or if some scientist at the ESA’s headquarters in Germany tweets on the spaceships’ behalf. I won’t speculate on that, because 5 years ago, I never thought my phone would’ve been able to call me by name.

Here’s what I do know: Mothers are always going to be mothers, even when the mother is a sophisticated piece of technology orbiting a comet light years away from earth.

Scientists say they are hopeful Philae can continue to transmit data about his recent days on the comet.

I’m sure Rosetta is just hopeful he will stay warm.

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