SPACE, SPACE MISSIONS AND MORE

2014-12-14Comet_67PToday I was travelling through the Solar System having made up my own scale of measurement. With the Earth being one centimeter wide, the Moon was as big as 2.7 mm across rotating round the Earth at the distance of 30 cm. The Sun (a little more than 1 meter wide) was 117 meters away, with its mass measuring 333,000 times of the Earth’s mass. Mars stayed on the other side – 60 meters farther from the Earth, and Jupiter – another 430 meters after Mars (490 m from the Earth). The distances of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were respectively 1 km, 2.16 km and 3.471 km from the Earth. I did not to take into account Pluto, since it had been “demoted” from a planet to an asteroid by some decision-making astronomical organization.

Interestingly, our cosmic environs can be mapped out through time parameters as well.  Whereas it takes 8 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth (the time I take to get home from my Metro station by shuttle-bus), light will travel 43 minutes to reach Jupiter (the time you need to get to the center of Kyiv from outskirts by Metro), 1 hour 20 minutes to Saturn, 2 hours 40 minutes to Uranus and more than 4 hours to Neptune. Incidentally, it takes me about that time (4.5 hours) to travel from Kyiv to my parents’ city in the center of Ukraine.

My special interest in space was caused by the recent news about Comet 67P discovered by the Soviet astronomers from Ukraine Klym Churyumov and Svitlana Gerasymenko in 1969. In March 2004 the European Space Agency sent a robotic space probe Rosetta on a mission to the Comet. On 12th November 2014 Rosetta’s lander module Philae successfully touched down on 67P and transmitted data about the Comet’s composition.

Since every aspect of ex-USSR’s life is permeated with politics, journalists presented this space news through the prism of political confrontation too. As it has turned out, Svitlana Gerasymenko lives nowadays in Dushanbe (Tadzhikistan) and thinks that Ukraine has been occupied by pro-American fascists, while Klym Churyumov (the head of the Central Astronomic Observatory in Kyiv) takes a strong pro-Ukrainian stand and writes books for children in the Ukrainian language.

The Russian communists insist that the Rosetta mission is the continuation of the Star Wars waged by the West, and the Philae landing is the “encroachment on our comet” because the Comet was discovered by the Soviet scientists and, allegedly, is under the jurisdiction of Russia (http://kplo.ru/content/view/3459/5/). LOL!!!

As regards the data transmitted from the Comet, the mission lander detected organic molecules on its surface. The discovery could provide new clues about how the early chemical ingredients (carried by comets and/or asteroids) led to life on the Earth. “How did those ingredients turn out to be on the comets?” my wife asked. “We should probably read the Bible for that,” I answered with a smile.

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