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OSIRIS Wrecks…

Hallelujah, miracle of miracles… Yesterday we were grudgingly tossed a couple more image scraps from the lavishly-covered OSIRIS banquet table. Again, most of the images are “empty” – you’ll recall that the now infamous “Cheops” image was mostly filled up with bare surface, with Cheops itself tucked away in one corner – and just show blackness, and the rest of the images are of the surface at a resolution comparable to the best ROSETTA navcam images released by ESA. So really, as dramatic as they are, let’s be honest here: they’re token gestures to the mission’s followers and supporters from a team, and its PI, who have shown – in stark contrast to the enthusiasm and energy and commitment to sharing the excitement of the mission shown by the ROSETTA Outreach team – a bizarre and shameful contempt for the hunger being felt “out here” for OSIRIS high resolution images.

I’ve worked on the mosaic released by the OSIRIS team, and here’s my take on it…

The_dark_side_of_the_comet e

And a crop…


You see? THIS is what I mean! Isn’t that stunning? Well, there must be hi-resolution OSIRIS images which put my tinkering effort to shame, images which simply look astonishing but don’t reveal any hard science, but they’re not even releasing those. Seriously, I just can’t get my head around the way the OSIRIS team are acting. It’s as if they’re actually trying to undermine all the fantastic work done by ESA in promoting and popularising the ROSETTA mission in the past ten years by withholding their images – images which would undoubtedly, if released into the wild, cause so much excitement amongst the space enthusiast community and the science-interested public alike that they would send ROSETTA’s public profile sky high.

At this stage, three months after ROSETTA arrived at 67P, the argument that the OSIRIS team is “protecting its science” simply can’t be true any more. No-one wants the OSIRIS scientists to risk their careers, or be beaten to revelations, discoveries or prizes, by releasing all their data as it comes in. But equally, no-one can doubt that they now have dozens of images which show incredible features, and details on the surface of the comet, without risking the work of any of the mission’s scientists, that’s just too ridiculous for words. They must have images showing the comet’s cliffs, vents and boulder-strewn plains in jaw dropping detail which could be shared with the world without risking the writing and publication of scientific papers and journals. But they won’t let us see them. It wouldn’t hurt them to, but they just won’t, and that is, to be frank, just them and their PI being stubborn, selfish and a little bit pathetic. When ESA is busting a gut to promote itself, to share its work, and open the eyes of the public to the excitement of space exploration, through withholding their wonderful images – and tossing us a single, mostly-empty image now and again – the OSIRIS team is doing its very best to wreck their efforts.

As we look forward to the historic landing of Philae, now less than a week away, the OSIRIS team and their images should be marching at the front of the ROSETTA parade, banging the biggest drums the loudest, shouting to the cheering crowds “Look what we can do! Look what Europe can do!!!”… Instead they’re sulking and skulking in their bedroom like a miserable teenager, refusing to join in with the party, doing their best to put a dampener on the whole thing. Shame on them.

I just hope that when the time comes for the ROSETTA team to request an extension to the mission, the Powers That Be don’t look too unkindly on the OSIRIS team’s refusal to promote the mission and engage with the public and punish the mission for it. That would be grossly unfair, seeing as everyone else involved in the mission is doing their absolute best to make it a success and make the public feel engaged with it.

In the meantime, on a brighter note, we’re now less than a week away from Philae’s historic landing attempt, and the internet is starting to groan under the weight of information about the big day being released by ESA. The ROSETTA website has links to media packs, pdf info sheets, videos, etc, but if you want to read a wonderfully concise and practical guide to the events of Nov 12th then go to the Planetary Society blog where the brilliant science journalist Emily Lakdawalla has written up what’s going to happen

Landing Day can’t come soon enough, can it…?