Comet Softly To Me

Early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft currently orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will deploy a lander called Philae. This one-chance-only attempt will be the culmination of a ten year mission to do something that has never been done or even attempted before – to put a piece of human-made machinery on the face of a speeding comet as it hurtles towards the sun.

There is so much that intrigues me about this – not the least of which is the method of landing – described in this New York Times article..

Because Comet 67P is so small, its gravitational pull is slight and the familiar mechanics of landing on a moon or a distant planet are turned upside down. Mission planners didn’t have to worry so much about breaking the lander’s fall because Philae will be released and will drift towards 67P, pulled in gently at what is described as “a walking pace.”

How fast is that? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet it could comfortably approximate the pace of this classic 1959 song by the Fleetwoods.

As the lander meanders towards the comet, planners will watch nervously to see if they are able to connect in a sympathetic and constructive way, or if a stray boulder causes the lander to flip over or a spot of shade renders its solar collectors useless.

Not to indulge in too much space-vehicle anthropomorphism here, but if Philae is able to kiss the surface of this elusive, enigmatic space traveler, it will be a brief, unlikely, and historic romance. The lander will run out of battery power in 62 hours and will fall silent, but not until it has had enough close contact to send back a treasure trove of data.

And what is in this for 67P? Perhaps nothing, though one must wonder if even a lonely, speeding comet has an innate desire to be known. And yes, this Earthling may bring just the sort of longed-for intimacy that has been missing during all the years that 67P has been orbiting the sun.

But in case The Fleetwoods have you thinking of this rendezvous as a perfect extraterrestrial romance, consider this one additional aspect – shortly after Philae and 67P gently touch, the lander will cement their new relationship by shooting a harpoon into the comets surface.

Charming. And such an Earthling thing to do.

Ever been stung?

32 thoughts on “Comet Softly To Me”

  1. Good morning. As a student in the department of Entomology, I took a course in bee keeping and Apiculture. The only time I tried to put this training to work I ended up with numerous stings.

    A friend had an old bee hive that was in bad shape and still contained an active colony of bees. I tried to fix the broken hive. The bees didn’t appreciate my efforts. They came after me. I couldn’t get away from them fast enough to avoid getting stung numerous times.

    Fortunately I found out that I have a high tolerance for bee stings and recovered from that massive attack without any major medical problems. I assume that the comet will be able to tolerate the sting of the lander when it attacks the comet with the harpoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hang two bird feeders on ropes over a high tree limb. The winds eventually wear away strands on the ropes. Yesterday I replaced the ropes, being, Ahem, Ahem, a nice calm precipitation-free day, ahem here, I replaced the ropes, which takes a bit. But as I was pulling the feeders back up into place, the birds landed on them right beside me. I felt like St. Francis. One downy woodpecker landed on the suet a foot from my head and stayed right there for 2-3 minutes as I watched him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your comment haunts me, Clyde. We can all agree that there are many ways of being emotionally abusive, including all the tricks summed up by the phrase “passive aggression.” Anyone who denies having been emotionally abusive is going to sound like someone too insensitive or defensive to own up to a widely shared human trait.

        That said, I honestly don’t believe I was ever emotionally abusive in my marriage. In spite of how it might look, I believe that to be true.


        1. This topic haunts me for a reason not related to our marriage, a reason I will not explain. But I know I have been emotionally abusive in minor ways a few times, losing my temper over silly things, selfish of my own needs now and then when hers mattered more, etc.
          Clearly there is a vague line of going too far, a line which has moved to the better in the last few decades. Think how many people, mostly women, took what was too much. I think right some people, more likely the young adults, expect there will never be anything they they feel is emotional abuse.
          Part of being a spousal care-giver is that you cannot really explain to the spouse when he/she becomes emotionally abusive.
          Boy did I take this to the dark side.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t you tell the dumb broad to go suck an egg
      You are supposed to be emotionally messed up during a break up otherwise it just goes on forever. That’s why they call it a break up. Otherwise it’s a damn reconciliation


  2. Dale, Come Softly to Me is one of my all time favorites – gets my vote for most romantic song.

    Most memorable sting: When I worked at the Wedge Coop (back when it was in a former 7-11 storefront), I had a nice pair of Timberline work boots that I wore on the job. One boot had gotten soaked somehow and I had set them in the sunny front window. When I put them back on, a bee had taken up residence in one, and stung the heck out of my left foot.


  3. Once I was at my Uncle Harvey’s farm near Pipestone and I was messing around near the barn with several of my cousins when one of us disturbed the ground nest of some sort of wasp or hornet, and they swarmed and I managed to get to the house unstung, but my younger cousins didn’t and they were stung pretty badly. What stung me was the rebuke i got from my Uncle Ronald who scolded me for thinking only of myself and not helping the younger ones get to the house. I was about 8 years old at the time.


  4. A dozen or so times by the various hymenoptera. I have a high tolerance of them. As for the various sting laden humans, now and then they have done their business on my, no more than the average I suspect.


  5. I get stung about once a year or so. The worst episode was maybe three or four years ago – I pulled up a tiny maple seedling which yielded a swarm of ground-nesting yellow jackets with its roots. I was stung maybe a dozen times or more, including on the inside of my lower lips. It is difficult to spit out yellow jackets while running at top speed.


  6. Morning-
    I too have disturbed a ground nest of yellow jackets. Stung 14 times I think.
    And the worst part was I was only pulling weeds to avoid a salesman who I ended up running into – literally- as I ran from the bees.

    In hindsight, snowfence would have been good yesterday.
    Posts are in the ground from last year so there’s only a few we have to reset. Hopefully there will only be a few inches of frost or less to drive those posts through.


    1. I read about a particularly bad encounter with ground nesting yellow jackets that sent a person to the hospital. I found a nest of them right in the middle of my yard when I was mowing. Fortunately I saw them before they came after me and I stayed away from them. Another time they built a big nest in the wall of our house. I don’t like using insecticide. However, the only way I could think of to deal with the nest in the wall was to kill them with a spray can of pesticide and that was how I took care of them.


      1. My daughter can react badly. Her daughter. and son have picked up some of her high sensitivities, like fish. Neither child has yet been stung, but we are wondering.

        A Mr. Tuxedo story which has an element of sting in it:. Their school has a reading program in which students get points for books they have read. The school subscribes to a database which has questions about many many books. It awards points on how well you test and how the reading level of the book relates to the grade of the student. (I think it is rather an interesting idea.) Last year he blew the top off the scale. So to his mind, he had done all that. His fourth grade teacher last week told him that he was the only student in the school who had a zero for this year. (The teacher is new this year and dis not know about last year.) So he told the teacher no problem. At the end of the week he had 106 points, which is a high number, very few students get a 100 in a year. He tested on all the books he read this summer. He told me that he took care of Mr. __________..


  7. I know I have told this story before, but I have this as part of the second book I am writing:

    The Sting

    They were cousins: He-cousin with the swagger of the superior athlete who has polished his skills. She-cousin with an edge of mischievousness, an eye for the moment of fun. He with a keen mind, willing to learn, seeking the challenge, reveling in academic success. She a match for him as a student.

    They were seniors in the same section of my college prep English class. As much for fun as learning, for sixteen consecutive Fridays I gave a twenty-word spelling test consisting of the everyday words that people confuse and commonly misspell. Every week I told the students that my point was to teach them that spelling counts in the finished version of their formal writing. Every year I had one or two students who missed as many as fifteen or more words every week. With them I explained that the the weekly tests would not count in their grade if they make few spelling errors in their writing; all met that criteria. I discussed with them strategies to spell correctly in the assigned papers. Usually the students told me the strategies that they had developed themselves, which was a satisfying moment for a teacher.

    When I gave the test every Friday, I made bad puns and told out-of-date jokes. If a student made no errors through the sixteen tests, I bought the student a large malt at the local Dairy Queen. One or two errors earned a Dilly Bar.

    He-cousin was a natural at spelling, as, after twelve and half years of school together, his classmates knew. She-cousin studied the words carefully.

    He-cousin swaggered his way through fourteen tests, sure of his answers, sure of his perfect score before I announced results right after the test. She-cousin was biding her time.

    On week fifteen, I announced that he-cousin had a word wrong. The students cheered. He-cousins rushed to the teacher desk to see what word was wrong and shouted, “But that’s how you spell it. I studied the words last period in study hall with . . .” The light dawned. He looked at his cousin, who had a smile of innocence on her lips and a glint of mischievousness in here eye.

    He-cousin accepted his Dilly Bar with grace.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Some years ago while swimming in the Sea of Cortez, I accidentally stepped on a Manta Ray and it stung me. I realized immediately what had happened, but since it didn’t really hurt that bad, I ignored it for about half an hour. But the foot kept swelling and getting hotter and hotter and getting more and more painful, so we decided we’d had better go to the emergency room. The young woman – don’t know whether she was a nurse or a doctor – who looked at it at the local Red Cross facility, knew exactly what to do. She gave me a shot for the pain, removed the stinger with a pair of tweezers, and sent me home with a bag of ice. She had obviously done this before.

    Cost? Nothing, she said, but a donation in their donation box on the wall would be most welcome. No paperwork and fast, friendly and competent service; I dropped a nice donation in their box.

    P.S. 60º and sunny today in Mansfield. Enjoying the few extra days of fall weather before heading back toward winter tomorrow afternoon. should be back either Thursday evening or Friday.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Son once got a few very small bees, what husband calls Sweat Bees, under his shirt when he was a little boy.They might be small but they sting.


  10. I have a sort of bee allergy but no big deal. Hurts more intensely swells more takes longer (days ) for swelling to go down but I have a pretty good understanding with the bees. They camn land on me anytime as long as they don’t sting. Drank a coke with a bee in it gosh that hurt, stepped through a hole and had hornets come and get stuck in pants legs
    The difference between honeybees hornets yellow jackets and different varieties of wasps is unfortunately something I am aware of

    I love being kept up to speed on cool space news thanks dale

    Sorry I’m a little late

    Clyde excellent book so far
    Keep it coming.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.