There is just so much that’s so cool about the Rossetta Mission.
It was launched over 10 years ago, and it’s set to land a probe on Comet 67p/Churyamov-Gerasimenko, which cometary experts seem to have decided to call 67p, but I’ve been referring to as Chury-Gury, on November 12th. That’s some serious forward planning, that is.
Also, it is multi-functional. On its way out to Chury-Gury, it circled around to have a look at a couple of other planetary bodies. Not bad for a little spacecraft that is just a bunch of solar panels with a box in the middle. a space going dragonfly with a giant brain (for a dragonfly).
It’s landing on a comet! That is a whole lot more complex than landing on another planet, or even a reasonably sized moon. This thing is not that big, it’s like a world in the story of The Little Prince, and shaped roughly like a leg of fried chicken. So, that’s pretty amazing.
But, before touching down it did something amazing. It deployed ROSINA, which stands for Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for Ion and Neutral Analysis. (they have such cool names) ROSINA’s nose, basically. For real.
So far, scientists on Earth have been examining the data, and they say it stinks like a dead fish in a fat man’s sock. “A combination of rotten eggs, alcohol and methane,” I heard
Amateur question here: If it smells like rotten eggs, alcohol and methane, is it possible that it harbors life of some kind or, at any rate, once did? Doesn’t look that way, or scientists would be going nuts.
One mistake I think we should avoid making is to assume that because Chury-Mury is a stinking ball of space crap, that all comets will be stinking balls of space crap.
Maybe the next comet we land on will smell like honey and cinnamon. The next will smell like steaks on the grill. The next like marijuana. The next like a fish and chips shop. The next like the smell of a sweet, grassy meadow in spring time, after an overnight rain.
There’s no reason to assume that all comets will smell alike.