Tag Archives: comet landing

5,000 years or so from now

The comet screamed as it raced towards the rocky planet. It hit the stony sphere a glancing blow and crystals spewed into the air. Clouds of water vapor enveloped everything. The comet didn’t seem to notice a thing as it continued on its path towards Jupiter.

Many years later the lander touched the surface. It bounced three times and stopped. After that it drilled a hole and touched and sampled and buzzed and hummed. Then it became quiet.

Thousands of years passed. The thing stayed in its place. All around it water vapor sublimed along with other organics. The comet got smaller. The path changed. One day visitors arrived.

“Hey look at that,” Being One said. “It is definitely artificial,” Being Two said. “Let’s take a look,” Being One said. They lifted the object and scrutinized it. “It appears to be from a primitive society. They must have launched this metallic object into the air and then they managed to place it here,” Being One said. “How amazing,” Being Two said. “I wonder what happened to them?”

“By the way, I like your shirt,” Being One said.  Being Two beamed. Being Two was wearing a favorite shirt.  Being One had to shield its eyes from the bright colors, “Thanks, but I think we need to concentrate on preserving this artifact,” Being Two said. “We should return it to the home planet and exhibit it in our Hall of Exploration. This comet will soon disintegrate.”

Being One looked at Being Two.  Being two was a tall stocky organism who couldn’t control its enthusiasm. Being Two went nuts when it found a new planet, asteroid or comet.  “Two’s beard is getting pretty scruffy,” Being One thought. “I wonder what they looked like,” Being One said. Being One put an arm around Being Two. “I think we have done a good day’s work. We discovered the remains of some early explorers. I think this comet has done a splendid job. It truly is a cosmic time machine.”




The spacecraft leaves the mother ship. It descends to the surface at a steady rate. Every thirty seconds small jets fire. It wobbles as it makes the final approach.

On the surface of the comet many sensory organs watch with anticipation. They see the shiny object hover and then gently come to rest. They begin to slither towards the object. Their bodies are gray and perfectly match the color of the surface. They notice the camera lenses and they are careful to stay out of their line of sight.

They crawl over the object. It is made of shiny polished metal. Soon the spacecraft is covered in writhing shapes. Finally one decides to show itself.  It stretches over the top of a camera and then looks directly into the lens.

In the control center all eyes are on the monitors. They are waiting for the first images from the lander. Only five more minutes and they will know if the landing was successful. The silence in the room is excruciating. The smell of stale coffee fills the air.

A crackle of static comes over the speakers. Everyone stares are the screens. There is a sudden intake of breath as the first images appear.

An odd face is staring out of the monitors. One giant eye sits above a small horizontal slit.  It is eerie. It appears to know that is is being watched. The head starts to pound on the lens and the camera vibrates with each blow. Now the same thing starts happening at the other cameras.

Sensors detect severe vibrations are rocking the lander. The scientists gasp and  begin talking at once. Some want to fire the engines while others say no it would be too late. All agree that the unthinkable has happened.

We are not alone.