Have just been watching the Thursday afternoon press conference at Esa, where a number of the scientists from the various teams involved explained what has happened so far to the Philae lander. In all their thinking throughout the project the team could hardly have pre-planned a response to the question: ‘What do we do if neither the down thrusters or the anchoring harpoons work, the lander bounces three times and ends up against a wall of rock with one leg off the ground, far away from the intended landing place?’
So what do they do? They rethink the data they are getting from onboard instruments designed for something else entirely, use it to work out where the lander now is and how it got there, and then start on a massive Plan B rethink without turning a hair. This is after betting 10 years of their careers on this one very risky project and going through the stress of the most difficult seven hours of their lives as the lander descended.
And all of this handled with a modesty, honesty and straightforwardness that puts most of our politicians and business people to shame.