Sunday, November 16, 2014

ESA's Perspective on Rosetta + Canada's Contributions & Bruce Willis

          by Chuck Black

With all the various media reports trumpeting the recent successes of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta robotic space probe, which landed on and performed a detailed study of comet67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P) last week, it's interesting to note that the most accurate assessment of the mission's significance so far has come through a collaboration between the ESA and video production facility Platige Image, on a short fictional film.

As outlined in the October 25th, 2014 Nerdist post, "Short Film Ambition Has Aiden Gillen as a World Creating Magician," the short, titled appropriately enough "Ambition," first debuted on October 24th at the British Film Institute’s Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder festival in London.

Directed by Tomek Bagiński, shot on location in Iceland and starring Aiden Gillen as a master magician and Aisling Franciosi as an apprentice attempting to transform dry wasteland into heavenly bodies, the short explicitly referenced Rosetta and provided an inspired, motivational, but perfectly rational reason why the mission could certainly be the start of something big.

November 12th, 2014 graphic showing the Rosetta spacecraft, the Philae lander and a timeline for the mission. Graphic c/o Graphic News/ ESA.
Of course a variety of Canadian organizations and individuals also contributed to the Rosetta mission over the last decade and a half of planning and travel time. They included:
  • Jakub Urbanek, who has been with the Rosetta flight control team for the last two years and Jane Hurley, a member of the science team. As outlined in the November 12th, 2014 CBC News article, "Historic Philae comet landing has Canadian connection," Urbanek grew up in Windsor, Ontario and completed an undergraduate degree in space engineering at York University while Hurley graduated from Memorial University in St. Johns, Newfoundland with a degree in physics and mathematics before attending Oxford University.
  • ADGA Group (Canada), through its Canadian-owned affiliate RHEA (Europe), which provided software to support the mission. As outlined in the November 13th, 2014 press ADGA release "Rosetta "The Comet Chaser" - The Canadian Connection," the firms provided an "indispensable engineering capability (which) supported the design, development, testing and operations of the Rosetta spacecraft."
  • Saskatoon, Saskatchewan based SED Systems, which built the three ground stations used to communicate with the spacecraft. As outlined in the November 10th, 2014 Canadian Press article, "Canadian firm has role in historic comet Rosetta mission," the firm has had a history of building ground stations for the telecommunications sector.
But while there were many Canadian and other contributors assisting with the success of the mission, the main credit must certainly be placed at the feet of its originators in the ESA, especially given that a similar and complementary US mission, the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby (CRAF) mission, was eventually cancelled, after going over budget. 

Given that, its likely more than fair that the Europeans are allowed to define the success of the mission by making the first movie that references it. 

Take that, Bruce Willis, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay!

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