When I sat down to write today’s post, at about 6pm Eastern, on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, I made the mistake of checking my Facebook before putting fingers to keyboard. This was a mistake. Thereupon, I saw the following three things trending.
Social media reports Oscar winner says thing about social media. Entropy achieved.
Woman famous for being famous (and sex tape) shows off impossible ass; internet loses its god damned mind.
Thing that happened weeks ago, happens again. Now with 48 additional frames.
For fuck’s sake, people. Is this really what you care about?
Is this what it was like to live in the sixties and know that people cared more about an episode of I Dream of Jeanie than they did the moon landing? To recap for the benefit of anybody who might have missed this afternoon’s events, humanity did something profoundly cool today. The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet, which might not sound like a big deal until you hear some of the numbers behind this mission.
The Rosetta probe, and its attached lander, Philae, left Earth twelve years ago. During its voyage, Rosetta gravity boosted around the Earth three times and once around Mars. The probe, after travelling six billion kilometers, finally chased down comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko just inside the orbital path of Jupiter. That’s about five-hundred million kilometers from Earth. When Philae landed on 67P, the comet was moving at approximately 18 kilometers per second. For anybody who doesn’t play Kerbal Space Program, 18 kilometers per second translates to 64,800 kilometers per hour. Since radio waves only travel at the speed of light, it takes 30 minutes to send a message to Rosetta and another 30 minutes for Rosetta to respond; in other words, there was no way to control this landing in real time. On the off chance all of these numbers have failed to impress, here’s a visual representation of everything I’ve just said.
tl;dr today is a pretty fucking amazing day for humanity. Way more amazing than a starlet’s opinions on twitter, a one-time porn star’s airbrushed ass, or a trailer for a movie that is still months away.
Take a few moments out of your day to consider the math that went into making Philae’s landing possible. Ponder the great vastness of space, and how small we are compared to all of that. Allow yourself a moment to be overwhelmed and humbled by the majesty of the universe and our ability to dip our toe into it. Humanity can do great things when we’re not wasting our time on the bullshit of oppression, war, and dickish behavior in general.
Look upward, and share the wonder I have seen.