July 2014 : I am sure you already know that Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet – with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). I risk the ire of other astronomers by referring to the COMET as COMET ROSETTA only because the latest name 67P/C-G just does not capture my imagination. I think CNN and BBC need an easier name.
In July 2014, the Rosetta Mission is already approaching the Comet as it orbits the Sun. With what promises to be a stunning implementation of ESA’s daring vision, in November 2014, the mission will actually deploy a landing vehicle onto the crusted surface of the COMET.
Last year, in 2013, the whole world watched another COMET, COMET ISON. We were spell-bound as the Comet headed in towards the SUN. Through coverage by CNN and the BBC (and eventually all the world’s media) the event attracted global attention. We all recall that ISON, in the end, failed to amaze, as it was destroyed by the gravity of the Sun on Thanksgiving evening 2013.
But this time, the almost certain landing promises to deliver wonderful TV footage that the world’s media is expected to cover for many hours if not days or weeks. Rosetta will arrive at the comet in August 2014. The Philae lander itself will be finally be deployed in November 2014.
Humans have always marvelled at landings on other bodies. First there was the wonder of landing on the MOON ; then there was the thrill of MARS CURIOSITY landing on Mars. But the concept of landing on a Comet is beyond most people’s imagination. I believe it will be breathtaking television. The movie “Gravity” educated every girl and boy on the planet about the International Space Station and the challenges of orbiting the Earth
But now childrens’ minds will be expanded as they experience landing on a body which is orbiting the Sun. I promise you the build up on TV will be amazing, as first Rosetta comes very close to the comet in just a matter of weeks. We will then share the thrill of flying alongside the comet. This will continue from August until November. And then the “reality show” culminates with this most amazing landing which I predict will happen in “prime time” in the USA.
ROSETTA’s route to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkohas (C-G) has been a long 10 year journey. I was fortunate to be one of the original principal investigators. But I admit to great disappointment when I realized that Rosetta was not going to carry “life detection and verification” equipment. If truth be told, in those days we did not really understand the extraordinary role of viruses in the evolution of life on Earth. Symbiogenesis has revolutionized our understanding of life and it makes me even more confident that the original theories of my now passed collaborator Sir Fred Hoyle, and myself, will eventually be confirmed. Just as 2013 was the year Panspermia became mainstream science, so 2014/2015 could well be the time that we finally discover undebateable evidence that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”.
So now in 2014, as the Rosetta space craft approaches the Comet 67P/CG (Churyumov-Gerasimenko), our knowledge of viruses and bacteria and especially symbiotic life, has grown substantially. We also recognize that NASA has refocused from “the search for water” to “the difficult endeavor of searching for the signs of life”. The ESA/NASA Rosetta team are guaranteed to be employing all the very latest tools we have at our disposal using remote spectroscopy by the wonderful Chile-based ALMA telescope. Will we be able to detect life or even the signs of life?
I am pleased to share my predictions with you, and have written a short paper for your enjoyment and understanding. The paper is adapted from a review invited by the open access journal The Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach (JAO).
May your life too be a Cosmic Phenomenon
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
PS Assisted by my colleagues Brig Klyce and Bill Smith, this BLOG and our associated newsletter is designed to be a convenient way for the avid science reader to keep up to date with the growing evidence that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”. Panspermia has entered mainstream science. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe.