On Monday 24th August, Cardiff was treated to a public talk by Prof Mark McCaughrean, Senior Science Advisor in the European Space Agency’s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration. Mark spoke about the Rosetta mission, which has been studying comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for the past year, including the landing of Philae on the comet’s surface amid huge media attention.
In this month’s Pythagorean Astronomy, I had a fascinating chat with Mark about his work at ESA, and his role leading the communications department. The public attention around Rosetta helped make it one of the great successes of the modern space age, and that is largely thanks to the efforts of the ESA science communications team – whether that be the press events around key mission milestones, the science fiction movie “Ambition“, or the anthropomorphism of the spacecraft in a series of short cartoons. But it’s not without its adverse effects, as the science teams behind the cameras and other instruments often want to keep their ground-breaking images under their belt.