One last look - farewell, MASCOT
The last adjustments have been made and the final functionality tests have been completed. Following the successful installation of MASCOT into the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft in Sagamihara, the final preparations have taken place at the Tanegashima launch complex in Japan. The attachment of the solar sails – carefully folded up above MASCOT for the launch – offers the last opportunity to see MASCOT.
Now, the development team must take a step back – it is a strange feeling. For two and a half years, we have been nurturing MASCOT, seeing it grow, teaching it plenty. But now it is time to let go, in the truest sense of the word, and send it on its difficult mission. Unfortunately, we cannot accompany it.
So how do you deal with the departure of an object that is not alive in a biological sense, yet contains the personalities of so many people who have guided it so dearly throughout its development?##markend##
The answer is quite simple – you take it as you would that of a real person, such as a young daughter going on a long bus journey to visit her grandparents. You think that the bus could have technical problems or encounter difficulties on the trip. You buy her a new coat for the journey so she isn’t cold. You load up her prepaid card so she can use her mobile phone to report in on the way, and make a test call to check whether your own number is being displayed on the screen. You accompany her to her seat, you buckle her in and say a few final words to her for the journey, reassuring her that everything will be OK. In the final moments, you wave at her from the bus stop until the doors have closed, the bus drives off and disappears from view.
During the departure, you cannot bring yourself to think of whether you have thought of everything, whether she has taken all that she needs with her, and whether she is big enough to cope alone with what lies ahead – because she still has so much to learn! Ultimately, it is a matter of trusting your own capabilities in passing on the right values during the preparation phase, of having the courage to acknowledge at a certain point that you have done everything humanly possible, and of hoping that external factors that you have no control over will be on your side as well.
Farewells are doorways into new worlds – so said Albert Einstein. And in this case, it could not be more appropriate.
Follow asteroid lander MASCOT on Twitter @MASCOT2018