November 9, 2014, by Brigitte Nerlich

Agilkia and public participation in science

On 12 November 2014 the space craft Rosetta will deploy its lander Philae and Philae will try to land on the Comet 67P or Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

As I have written about the Rosetta mission and Philae, I thought I had to at least try and write something very short about the landing site (formerly known as ‘J’), which now also has an Egyptian themed name: Agilkia.

This name was chosen after a public naming competition in which 8000 people participated. People sent in suggestions in all sorts of languages, including Esperanto; 150 suggested the name Agilkia; one person, Alexandre Brouste from France, wrote a lovely little essay on the name; and he will now witness the landing (or not) of Philae on Agilkia from ‘mission control’ in Darmstadt, Germany.

Agilkia is the name of “an island on the Nile River in the south of Egypt. A complex of Ancient Egyptian buildings, including the famous Temple of Isis, was moved to Agilkia from the island of Philae when the latter was flooded during the building of the Aswan dams last century.” (See ESA)

The site “is located on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s small lobe and was originally selected as a site that offers the best science returns while providing the best chances of landing success.”

Here is a video of the landing site.

Here is an animation of the landing itself, which is, one has to agree, rather ‘adorable’. The blogger writing about this animation also rightly says: “never stop personifying space robots, ESA”.

Here is a blog post by me on personifying space robots……. I bet Curiosity is watching all this very carefully!

Now we just have to wait and see whether or not “space historians [will] one day say ‘Agilkia’ with the same awe as they utter ‘Tranquility Base,’ where in 1969 Man first walked on the Moon?”

As a great headline in New Scientist says (print edition): There is “Just one shot at this parking spot”. Good luck Rosetta, Philae and all their human support network!

Image: “Philae, seen from the water, Aswan, Egypt, Oct 2004”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Posted in public participationspacespace exploration