Everything Had To Go Right… And Didn’t


I am heavily invested in Rosetta and Philae, the orbiter/lander combo at Comet 67/P. It was the focus of my recent trip to NASA JPL and our recent show on Slooh.com. I did lots of show prep.

Everything went right with Philae until it didn’t. It’s ending will deprive science of much of the data they’d hoped for.

Philae was released by Rosetta and dropped toward the comet. The word ESA used was “ballistic.” With nearly zero gravity the 200’ish pound Philae weighed around a gram. The drop took seven hours.

It hit the comet’s surface at walking speed, but the ice screws didn’t grip and its harpoons didn’t deploy.

The harpoons did not fire and Philae appeared to be rotating after the first touchdown, which indicated that it had lifted from the surface again.

Stephan Ulamec, Philae manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported that it touched the surface at 15:34, 17:25 and 17:32 GMT (comet time – it takes over 28 minutes for the signal to reach Earth, via Rosetta). The information was provided by several of the scientific instruments, including the ROMAP magnetic field analyser, the MUPUS thermal mapper, and the sensors in the landing gear that were pushed in on the first impact.

The first touchdown was inside the predicted landing ellipse, confirmed using the lander’s downwards-looking ROLIS descent camera in combination with the orbiter’s OSIRIS images to match features.

But then the lander lifted from the surface again – for 1 hour 50 minutes. During that time, it travelled about 1 km at a speed of 38 cm/s. It then made a smaller second hop, travelling at about 3 cm/s, and landing in its final resting place seven minutes later. ESA news release

The probe has come to rest alongside a large boulder. It is blocked from the Sun. Its solar cells, hoping for eight hours of daylight, only get one and a half.

Philae will work for a few days, then run out of juice. It’s a lander, not a rover.

In the meantime there’s concern deploying some of its instruments could bounce Philae again. No one knows where. At the moment even scientists aren’t even sure where on the comet Philae sits.

There will be good science from this mission, but not as much as hoped for. Space continues to be a supremely challenging pursuit. It is still much too dangerous and expensive to include humans. It always will be that way.

Isn’t It A Little Early?


I’m on the patio now after a night of TV.

Since when does Christmas start this early? What the hell is going on? Why are there “Black Friday” sales now?

Christmas music. Christmas trees. Snowflakes flying as Santa selects which Benzy he wants to speed around in. It’s not Thanksgiving yet!

QVC started so early I’m surprised they’re not already having “After Christmas” sales.

There’s a victim in all this. Thanksgiving has been offed to make room for expanded Christmas!

Someone get Bill O’Reilly. There’s a “War on Thanksgiving!”

On cable news snowy commercials separate snowy news reports.

It’s tough not to be smug about this. Winter was a huge decider for us in coming west. We daydreamed of laughing at winter.

National High and Low Temperature (for the contiguous United States)
NWS Weather Prediction Center, College Park, MD
Issued 7 pm EST Thursday, November 13, 2014

High Temperature for Thursday, November 13, 2014
(as received by 7 pm EST November 13)
85 at Hollywood, FL

Low Temperature for Thursday, November 13, 2014
(as received by 7 pm EST November 13)
-34 at Lucerne, WY

It’s cold and stormy through the Rockies and parts of the flatter Midwest. Winter’s grip is tightening. There’s at least another week of cold, maybe more, before a letup.

As I write this it’s 23 in Milwaukee where most of my family lives. The wind is West at 12 mph. The wind chill is 11!

SoCal TV news also led with weather this evening. Our threshold is decidedly lower. Some areas reported sprinkles! None are within fifty miles of me.

It’s a little cool on the patio. I’m going to go in.

Our Upcoming Guest

father and son

This is exciting. I just made reservations to have my dad visit us in OC.

There’s more prep involved when you’re 89. My dad’s good to travel. He has physical limits.

There is one flight a day from Milwaukee to Orange County. It stops in San Francisco, but he doesn’t have to change planes. Perfect!

I don’t think he needs to be entertained. Being here will be enough. Geez–I hope it will.

Mark your calendars for December 7.

We’re Watching Poker


Welcome to the 21st Century. The Foxes are home, downstairs on the family room sofa watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN. It’s compelling.

This year’s coverage features a high tech addition. The chips and cards are RFID enabled. Hole cards are read when the player puts money in the pot. The audience at home knows who has what as bets are made.

We can and do offer advice to the TV set! We often can’t figure out why the player is doing what he’s doing.

In order to keep it honest for the players, ESPN is running its “Live” coverage on a 30 minute delay. How is that still live?

Poker is an interesting game. There’s lots of luck, but enough skill for some people to make a living play. For some people a very good living.

The WSOP “Main Event” started July 5th. Once the field was winnowed from 6,683 to 9 the action was paused. It picked up last night for the final table.

Ninth out got around $750k. First place will get exactly $10 million. All for an original $10,000 buy-in–still too rich for me.

Last year Helaine played in the women’s event. I told her we should go back next year.

My Buddy Roxie


Stef is here for a few days. Roxie’s here too. This is like having grandchildren come to visit, right? Except it’s easier.

Having Roxie and Doppler together is fun because they’re so different. Don’t get me wrong. They’re both good–team players.

Roxie is more playful and needy than Doppler. She chases toys. She snuggles. She gets on her back with her paws up asking for a friendly rub.

She has amassed a collection of rawhide chew sticks, many stolen from Doppler. As a dachshund, she is uncontrollably driven to bury them. She pushes some into corners then uses her nose to cover them with imaginary dirt. It’s strange to watch.

She like being involved. She lays down close to the action, even when more quiet places are within easy reach.

Usually Roxie and Doppler go for a walk together. When Doppler goes out alone, Roxie jumps off the sofa and runs downstairs at the sound of a bag of treats opening. She’s knows our ‘house policy’ of always rewarding them together. Her ears are attuned to food.

Stef says Roxie looks forward to her trips here, sitting up erect in the car as they exit the freeway. The feeling is mutual.

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