Rather than simply turn off the spacecraft when its funding runs out at the end of 2015, Rosetta’s science team have proposed that the mission get a nine month extension, during which they will slowly spiral into the comet and gently land.
Their proposal is similar to what American scientists did with their NEAR spacecraft, which hadn’t been designed to land on an asteroid but was successfully eased onto the surface of Eros, where it operated for a very short time.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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