A smart investment for a landmark feat
Last week, mankind wrote a new chapter in human history. A space probe the size of a washing machine landed on a comet with a radius of four kilometers (2.4 miles) traveling at a speed of Mach 53 (about 80,000 miles per hour). I had trouble writing a headline, as nothing on Earth could compare to this triumph in the universe. The first idea - “A Washing Machine Thrown into the Palace of Versailles” - was too romantic. “A Fly Landing on a Baseball Thrown at 100 mph” was too easy. Replacing the baseball with a bullet was still too ordinary. Another suggestion was “Hitting a Target While Riding a Horse Blindfolded,” which doesn’t really describe the process.
The comet was traveling at an amazing speed, and it is even more astonishing that all of this happened 500,000 kilometers from Earth. It took 30 minutes for the landing order to reach the unmanned probe named Rosetta. The Philae robotic lander flew seven hours before scientists received a message that it had successfully landed.
But those seven hours were insignificant compared to the 10 years and five months the European scientists had waited for the probe to approach the comet. Rosetta’s journey was 6.5 billion kilometers. Since there was no rocket powerful enough to send the probe from Earth to the comet, it orbited the sun several times and used the Earth’s gravity to gain propulsion. In order to conserve energy, it traveled three years in hibernation mode.
The science and technology used to meticulously calculate the journey are amazing, but I would like to send even more praise for the patience of the scientists. The mission took two decades to plan. While communication with the Philae has been lost due to a discrepancy in the landing site, the outcome is already a great triumph. The project cost 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion), which is equivalent to next year’s budget for the controversial four-rivers project, so it was a smart investment.
The success was made possible by many people working together. Compared to them, we have been too impulsive and hasty, and lacked proper planning. While we say education is a plan for 100 years ahead, College Scholastic Aptitude Test errors happen every year. Local governments construct expensive buildings to show off the accomplishments of political leaders, and the reconstruction of Sungnyemun Gate was rushed to be completed during the term of the former president.
Would the administrators be so hasty and wasteful if they thought they were working for their own children, spending their own money and building their own house? I wonder if the administrators ever thought about the sense of responsibility the European scientists had shown as they saw the pictures of the comet from the Philae.
*The author is an international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 31
By LEE HOON-BEOM