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Rosetta Probe Directly Discovers Organic Molecules on Comet

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Gautam Naik reports: The probe that landed on the surface of a comet has discovered organic molecules, the most rudimentary building blocks of life, according to the German agency involved in the mission.

“A study of the comet’s organic materials ‘will help us to understand whether organic molecules were brought by comets to the early earth,’ which could have kick-started life here.”

An instrument aboard the Philae lander detected the molecules after “sniffing” the comet’s atmosphere. An organic compound is one whose molecules contain the carbon atom, the basis of life on earth.

“We are very confident that in coming months we’ll get more sun and power and Philae can be reactivated.”

— Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager and scientist at the German Aerospace Center

Scientists are analyzing the data to see whether the organic compounds detected by Philae are simple ones—such as methane and methanol—or a more complex species such as amino acids, the building blocks for proteins. A drill on Philae also obtained some material from the comet’s hard surface, but data about organic molecules from that experiment have yet to be fully analyzed. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Probe That Launched a Thousand Shirts

Space scientist Matt Taylor apologized for the shirt he wore during live coverage of the Rosetta mission to land a probe on a comet. VPC

Better not to land a spaceship on a comet than let men wear sexist clothing.

Glenn Reynolds writes: So how are things going for feminism? Well, last week, some feminists took one of the great achievements of human history — landing a probe from Earth on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away — and made it all about the clothes.mt

“…what should have been the greatest day in a man’s life — accomplishing something never before done in the history of humanity — was instead derailed by people with their own axes to grind. “

Yes, that’s right. After years of effort, the European Space Agency’s lander Philae landed on a comet  300 million miles away. At first, people were excited. Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt, made for him by a female “close pal,” featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women. And suddenly, the triumph of the comet landing was drowned out by shouts of feminist outrage about … what people were wearing. It was one small shirt for a man, one giant leap backward for womankind.

“Whatever feminists say, their true priorities are revealed in what they do, and what they do is, mostly,  man-bashing and special pleading”

The Atlantic’s Rose Eveleth tweeted, “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.” Astrophysicist Katie Mack commented: “I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM.” And from there, the online feminist lynch mob took off until Taylor was forced to deliver new-schoola tearful apology on camera.

[Glenn Reynolds‘ book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]

It seems to me that if you care about women in STEM, maybe you shouldn’t want to communicate the notion that they’re so delicate that they can’t handle pictures of comic-book women. Will we stock our Mars spacecraft with fainting couches?

Not everyone was so censorious. Read the rest of this entry »


NASA: Comet Landing The First Step For Humans To ‘Move Off This Planet’

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WASHINGTON (CBS TAMPA/AP) – Following the first successful touchdown on a comet by the European Space Agency’s Philae probe, a NASA director expressed his own excitement by declaring it a big step toward “moving off this planet” and “taking” the entire solar system.

“How audacious! How exciting! The solar system is mankind’s — this mission is the first step to take it. It’s ours… It’s these steps that will lead us beyond this planet and on to Mars and out into the solar system.”

The U.S. space agency’s planetary science head, Jim Green, said the successful touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday is evidence that the solar system is now in the grasp of wider human exploration, CNET reports. NASA has plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, although Elon Musk and Mars One hope to achieve that years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »


Rosetta Spacecraft Lands Robot on a Comet

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Amanda Wills reports: In one of the biggest space successes in years, a spacecraft named Rosetta landed a refrigerator-sized robot onto a comet.

Operated by the European Space Agency, the mission had a 70% chance of success. If Rosetta was just millimeters off on the drop, it could have resulted in total failure.

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This landing is the main reason Rosetta made the 10-year journey to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is currently orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.

Rosetta deployed Philae early on Wednesday from about 14 miles away from the center of the comet. Philae is now on its own. The descent took about seven hours. The Rosetta team received the signal from Philae around 11 a.m. ET.

How it all went down

If you’re just tuning in, however, here are the highlights:

2:57 a.m ET:

Rosetta and Philae were cleared for separation despite some issues with the active descent system. Its cold gas thruster, which was designed to push the spacecraft onto the comet as harpoons and ice screws lock it to the surface, wasn’t working. Read the rest of this entry »