Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Goodnight Comet, Goodnight Philae

So I spent part of last night being emotional over the Philae lander...

NASA, and now the ESA, have become slightly infamous for tweeting on behalf of their rovers and probes. Instead of just data, each little machine gets it's own personality. Curiosity is a thrilled scientist, clearly excited by the work she's doing (and who likes to take selfies). She's even had thoughtful conversations with some of the brightest minds in science, like a delightful back and forth she had with Neil deGrasse Tyson.


Just like Curiosity, Philae got his own Twitter account and his own personality. Philae was plucky, eager and adorable. Philae sounded more like a kid going on an epic adventure in their backyard, a character in a Pixar movie with great things ahead of them. xkcd's wonderful Philae landing comic helped to reinforce this, making Philae seem completely enthusiastic (and a big fan of whales). He tweeted out in different languages that he had landed and the entire world cheered for him.

Sadly, Philae didn't have a perfect landed and ended up resting in a place where his batteries couldn't recharge. The ESA scrambled to get all the data on the comet they could and tried to figure out a way to move him. On Twitter, Philae didn't seem concerned. He had a mission and he was going to complete it come hell or high water.

Last night, Philae sent out what may be one of his last tweets and it's utterly heartbreaking.


I'm not crying, YOU'RE CRYING.

Tons of people on Twitter went out of their way to tell Philae they were proud of him, to tell him to sleep well. It felt like a particularly heart wrenching scene in an animated movie. This is like Littlefoot's mother dying levels of sadness right here. This is Wall-E getting broken and shutting down.


This excited little robot made it all the way to the comet, landed and sent back reams of scientific data before his batteries began to run out. I know it's some ESA employee tweeting and not the actual lander but I couldn't help being overwhelmed with emotion over the fact he was shutting down. Honestly, giving the probes and rovers personalities on Twitter is one of the best ideas NASA and the ESA have had. I care so much about their missions now, it makes you want to root for their success and celebrate when they reach milestones. It also makes you begin to cry at 1am when you discover they're shutting down.

Sleep well, Philae. You did good. We're all very proud of you. Sleep tight and don't let the comet bugs bite.

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