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67P on APOD

Well, Christmas came early for me today… 🙂

Woken by Peggy’s “I’m hungry! Feed me!” mewling at 05.40 – she’s much better now after her recent snottery cold – I knew there was no way I would get back to sleep, so I went online to check the overnight Tweets and FB posts – and, following a Twitter link, found a lovely surprise on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website…


Wow… I mean, WOW… they made my “comet cliffs” picture, posted here a few days ago, APOD!!!

I am so, so happy about that, seriously. Not just because personally it is nice to have an image which took a long time to make being seen and shared so widely now, but mainly because it shows why the ESA decision to regularly release navcam images from the ROSETTA mission was the right one to take – it has allowed people like me to use ROSETTA images for Outreach, and to promote the mission to the media and the public. Every reTweet and every FB share and comment proves how much interest in the mission there is out here. People are blown away by that image and the view of the cliffs it shows, so thank you AGAIN to ESA for letting us see the navcam images and allowing us to use and play with them! 🙂

Sadly… yes, you knew this was coming, didn’t you… this is in stark contrast to the continuing behaviour of the OSIRIS team, which simply refuses to share anything with anyone. OSIRIS must have taken many hundreds of images by now, and half a dozen or so have been released. It is impossible, IMPOSSIBLE, that every one of those images is SO important it has to be kept under wraps. Therefore they are keeping hold of them because they want to, and don’t want to share them with the world. With *us*, the public, who, ultimately, through taxes, pay for space missions. And at a time of austerity and global troubles, when it is becoming increasingly hard for Governments, scientists and space enthusiasts to justify the huge amounts of money spent on space research, to have scientists deliberately keeping images back from the public is not just wrong, it is, frankly, bloody stupid. Without public support space exploration will not happen in the future. The attitude of the OSIRIS team is a stinging slap across the face to every person who has contributed to it financially – to the guy stacking shelves in the supermarket, the nurse struggling through a night shift, the care worker looking after a dying woman. Undoing all the great work done by ESA, and the rest of the ROSETTA mission, the OSIRIS team are making scientists seem like a selfish, disconnected elite again, which is wrong. And dangerous.

And it is worth saying, again, that this is not ESA’s fault. They have about as much influence over the OSIRIS team as I do over the Cumbrian weather, which is absolutely APPALLING at the moment. ESA has made huge strides in Outreach in recent years and ROSETTA Outreach in particular has been spectacular. The stunning Ambition film, the cute animations, the informative blogs, websites and videos have all been fantastic. But the OSIRIS team is essentially a mission within the ROSETTA mission. They’re basically an independent group running their own private space mission which hitched a ride to Mars onboard ROSETTA. No-one thinks it unfair that the scientists should be allowed to have first go at the images, and be allowed to do their science, to write their journals and papers using the most dramatic, paradigm-shifting images. But they have taken it to a ridiculous extreme, retreating into their castle, pulling up the drawbridge and laughing down at us from the towers like those French knights in Month Python and the Holy Grail. It’s obvious by now that OSIRIS team cares nothing about peer pressure, public opinion or media interest. Maybe they’ll see the error of their ways in the future, when mission extensions are discussed and their lack of engagement with the media and their arrogant dismissal of the public’s interest has a spotlight shone on it. I hope they are made to squirm.

In the meantime, yes, very chuffed about my image making APOD. If an absolute amateur like me can make something like that, just with very simple photo processing software and a laptop, which people react to so strongly and so positively, just imagine what the reaction would be if the OSIRIS team released some of their high resolution images…