Comet-crazed, and for good reason

The byline of web producer Ashley Yeager, whose look at the Rosetta mission graces this issue’s cover, doesn’t appear that often in Science News (or at least not since she was a writing intern here many moons ago). Yeager is among our most active bloggers, posting nearly daily updates on new research on the Science Ticker blog. She is also our in-house video editor, piecing together visuals from scientists with her own voice-overs to tell stories through image and sound (visit our YouTube channel to see some of her handiwork). Those duties and others leave her little time to write longer articles.

But Yeager found Rosetta hard to resist. So she made time, including nights and weekends, to report on the mission and the upcoming dramatic attempt to land a robotic explorer on a comet for the first time. “It’s like landing on the moon,” she says, “but it’s a comet, a relic of the early solar system.” The Rosetta spacecraft will also be the first to follow alongside a comet as it nears the sun. “This could completely change our conception of what comets are, of what they look like,” she says. Her excitement about the mission comes through in her article, as she details the many unknowns of comets and of the mission itself, including the edge-of-your-seat landing attempt.

On November 12, Yeager plans to be alongside European Space Agency scientists and engineers in Darmstadt, Germany, as they wait for the lander to descend from the spacecraft. During those long hours, she will provide updates on the proceedings on Twitter and our website. The challenges are many for the lander, from the small, uneven target to the comet’s very low gravity. If the lander comes down too hard, that lack of pull could lead the probe to bounce, some scientists think. Tantalizingly, the surface may be fluffy. No one knows because no one has ever been on a comet before.

That is at the heart of why Yeager wanted to write this story. Coming to the edge of knowledge, especially about what’s out in space, fires her imagination. That’s why she got into this business. That sensation is why most of us got into this business — and it’s what I hope our readers will find in every issue.

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