The ability of humans to get along and get things done is not always on display on Earth, which makes its especially inspiring and gratifying to see human accomplishments in the heavens.
One came Wednesday millions of miles from Earth. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe chased down a comet hurtling at 41,000 mph and dropped a lander called Philae onto the comet’s surface. The washing-machine-sized lander then latched on to the cosmic ice ball using harpoons and ice screws, effectively giving mankind a grip on a comet.
“We are the first to have done that, and that will stay forever,” said ESA Director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain.
Rosetta and Philae will stay with the comet as it passes the sun and changes in the rising temperatures. Among other things, scientists will use access to the comet to test whether the frozen bodies brought organic matter and water to Earth billions of years ago. On Wednesday, one lassoed comet brought to Earth something for sure: pride and joy.