Philae – sleeper awake

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end.  Amen.

I feel strangely very sorry that the Rosetta lander, Philae, has run out of battery gone offline and is taking a long nap. She may never wake. (She?)

I don’t fully understand why I am sorry as I am and, if I am honest, even a little sad. Some of it is the disappointment I feel is for the team that designed, launched, and landed Philae. They were so excited and their excitement was infectious. I imagine they may now be equally downcast. The champagne has lost all the fizz and turned vinegar.

I think one thing that I feel sad about is the dashed hope that the feat gave rise to in me. The very idea that Rosetta could ‘slingshot’ three times around the earth in order to gather enough speed to go far enough and then go all that way and with such accuracy and find a speck of rock that only had a few letters to name it… All that seems just extraordinary. Wow!

I had this extraordinary feat in the back of my mind as I sat with someone in Auckland Hospital this past week as they talked with a Cardiac Consultant. There was this Consultant trying to do his work. There was this patient who had waited seven months and three rescheduled appointments for the appointment. The Consultant could not access the medical records because the computers were not working properly. He spoke form memory of reading the records but couldn’t offer any real comment or diagnosis or anything. Because “the system was down.” I said to myself, ‘But if Philae can land, this is absurd!’ It was hard not to feel a little angry.

It should be possible for our hospitals to have working computers, and, … the list goes on for ACC and other government departments to manage private information, and you can add to the list. On a global scale, it should be possible for us to respond more adequately to Ebola or HIV/AIDS. These issues are way less problematic than Rosetta’s mission!

Philae showed me at least what is possible if humans put their minds to big big technical problems. I was delighted that the team that had worked for so long had succeeded. It gave me reason to hope that, if we turned our minds to problems here on earth, problems that dog us that appear to be just about resources and application, we could, indeed we will, succeed. Philae was, for a few days, a spit in the eye to so many apparently unnecessary absurdities in this world.

I still think we can do better. And I do hope Philae wakes from her sleep and sends back some more data.


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