We may not always consider Europeans our friends, but there's no doubting they did something special last week.
It was a feat 25 years in the making and a decade in waiting. By now you've probably picked up that the European Space Agency (which apparently exists) successfully landed a probe, called Philae, on the surface of a comet.
This is a first. We've landed stuff on other planets, visited stars, explored other moons and even our own sun. Landing an object on the surface of a few-miles long piece of rock hurtling hundreds of thousands of miles per hour through space proved a little more difficult, but it has been done.
The cool thing is that's not even the best part of this entire operation. The "how" is amazing enough, until you hear about the "why."
Through multiple astronomy classes in college, I understand what they're looking for and why it's exciting. But I feel like the message has been lost in the whole "we landed on a freaking comet!" celebration through the news reports. So, let me explain why any of you should be excited about what this probe might find.
Comets are not usual parts of our solar system, and we've known this for a while. These rocky, icy cosmic satellites only visit us every several decades or centuries. Their orbits are very large because most of them originate from what's called the Oort cloud, a band of cold, icy rocks surrounding our immediate solar system.
These rocks are thought to have originated close to the sun but were thrown far out very early on in the formation of the solar system (the physics works on this). As such, they are very old compared to the rest of it, including earth.
Now, I'm going to really blow your mind. Philae may have been the first probe to land on a comet, but the NASA spacecraft Stardust found something interesting in a comet tail in 2009 when it collected what was left behind.
It found traces of glycine, an amino acid found in organic life forms. Let me repeat that: Stardust found an amino acid IN SPACE. How did a building block to proteins and, subsequently, life get up there in one of the oldest parts of our solar system?
It is hoped Philae will help answer that question along with many more during its time on the comet.
And I'm looking forward to it, because I have a theory of my own. Science and religious beliefs can coexist. Just because we believe God created the heavens and the Earth does not mean we cannot find any traces of that creation process at all.
I for one believe Philae might help us find another piece of the puzzle soon, and there is nothing wrong with that. Knowledge is human nature.