Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 20 January 2014

Rosetta Craft to land on Comet

A European Space Agency spacecraft, Rosetta, is to attempt to land on a comet travelling at high speed through space at over 24 thousand miles per hour.  Clearly these kind of velocities are difficult to attain using current technology so the Rosetta craft has spent over two years circling Earth and Mars to build up a slingshot effect.

The project has been likened to trying to get a fly to land on an speeding bullet.  Just to make it even more difficult the craft has been out of contact and in virtual hibernation mode for the last two years as it built up speed.  Engineers are attempting to regain contact today so that they can control its flight mode.

Apart from the fact that this is an interesting subject in its own right, my attention was caught by a brief mention in the latest article on the subject that revealed that the Rosetta craft launched in March 2004.  It was about that time that I started writing the first draft of The Journeymen, a part of which details the trials and tribulations of landing a spacecraft onto the surface of a speeding comet.  Another coincidence is that the book featured ESA engineers as the main characters, but I guess there's a limited number of space agencies to pick from.

The ESA scientists and engineers may be pleased to hear that the fictional attempt succeeded, but you often find fiction less stressful than pushing real boundaries.  Unlike my version, which was an attempt to piggy-back on the comet to make a journey that would have been otherwise impossible, these people are attempting to carry out some real life research into comets, trying to understand what they are composed of, how they decompose during their journey and what they might contain.  I'm sure the consortium that has just invested large amounts of venture capital into attempting to mine precious minerals from orbiting objects will be watching pretty closely too - I'm not convinced right now about the economics of their venture, but seeing as mining the minerals from the comet also played a significant part of The Journeymen storyline, including a particularly bloodthirsty battle in space, then I'm also interested in how they get on.  It may be fiction, but I always hoped that the ideas could be feasible in the long run - that's what makes writing such an interesting venture.

So good luck to the engineers on their attempt to regain control and I'll be watching this project closely.

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