To say Bill Nye digs space would be a vast understatement.
The beloved Science Guy recently visited Big Think to discuss this year’s major astronomical feat: the Rosetta mission’s rendezvous with the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Bill makes several interesting points about what the Rosetta mission means in the grand scheme of things. First, there's the simple fact that it's a ridiculously amazing achievement to land anything on a comet. The Rosetta probe, launched ten years ago by the European Space Agency, will have traversed great lengths of space to reach a tiny dirt clod barely kept together by its non-zero gravity. It's a testament to mankind that we will have accomplished this feat.
Second, the Rosetta mission speaks to our primal thirst for adventure. Space is, as Captain Kirk would say, the final frontier. It is the last bastion of untold curiosities known to humanity. Sending Rosetta (and it's lander, Philae) to explore the surface of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will lead to new discoveries we never could have fathomed.
"There’ll be stuff out there that no one’s thought of – something about ice, something about rocks, something about gravity, something about orbital motion, something about iridium – I’m making that up. Something about elements that we don’t think about too much. And you’re going to have an adventure."
Finally, Nye explains how this current space adventure may one day help prevent a global tragedy. The only preventable astronomical disaster that could one day eradicate humanity is a collision between Earth and an asteroid. Nye sees Rosetta's landing as a prelude to the missions our space agencies must design in order to plan an asteroid landing for the purpose of blowing it off course.
"If there were another one that were going to hit the earth you can see that if you just tried to push it you probably wouldn’t influence it properly. You’d just make it scatter and you might make things worse."
Nye ends the interview with one of his trademark moments of levity. He says he hopes to one day be a part of a civilization that elects not to go the way of the dinosaurs. After all...
"There is no evidence at all that the ancient dinosaurs had a space program and it cost them."
Bill Nye's latest book is Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
You can see photos from Rosetta at planetary.org
Images: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0