Bill Nye (The Science Guy!) comments on the Rosetta / Philae rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Whatever happens, says Nye, we will discover something unexpected. Nye’s latest book is Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.
Bill Nye: Philae, in Latin we would say Philae is going to hook up, going to connect, going to touch the comet. It’s really an extraordinary thing and it’s done by the European Space Agency. The mission has lasted ten years I think because the distances in space are just enormous. There’s a lot of space in space. And for those of you who have not done this please visit planetary.org and look at the photographs, the pictures coming back from this thing. You can see what people have speculated a lot about the nature of cometary bodies – comets and asteroids is they’re not a single rock. It’s a gravel, rubble pile as we like to say. These rocks are held together by their tiny but nevertheless non-zero amount of gravity.
Just rendezvousing with this comet is an extraordinary thing. Compared to the vastness of space it’s a very, very small object. Yet it is part of the primordial solar system. There’s going to be something there that no one’s ever thought of. We’re going to make discoveries that no one has imagined yet. And we’re going to have this adventure. This is the thing about exploration. When you explore you’re going to have two things. You’re going to make discoveries. 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. There’s going to be an adventure. Landing this spacecraft, watching the object come closer and closer. That’s going to be exciting. And as we say all the time, what are you guys going to find out there? We don’t know what we’re going to find and that’s why we’re looking. And as I like to always do I tie it back to the only preventable natural disaster which is the earth getting hit with an asteroid.
For me practically you can see that if you were to set off an explosive here to try to deflect this thing. If it were going to hit the earth – this was not going to hit the earth everybody. But 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. So that’s why we at the Planetary Society advocate our laser bees program where we zap the surface of one of these with lasers. But that aside, I hope to be among the people that does not go the way of the ancient dinosaurs. There is no evidence at all that the ancient dinosaurs had a space program and it cost them.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Images: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0