This week, Warwick Holmes, Executive Director of the Space Engineering at the University of Sydney, shared his extraordinary story of the Rosetta Mission to an audience of 300 at the Barker Institute. Students, their parents, staff and members of the broader community were captivated by his first-hand experience of launching a spacecraft and the ambitious following 12 year mission. Details of the intricate planning, mathematical and scientific thinking involved, and the responsibility of the "go for launch" command during the countdown were shared with the audience. Ever had a 2 billion dollar project sitting on your shoulders?
There were many interesting anecdotes highlighted in this enjoyable presentation. After travelling 6 billion kilometres to find Comet 67P, the Rosetta team were thrilled to find not one, but two comets joined together. However, this comet was hissing gas out many holes on its surface. Surmounting obstacles seemed to be a theme for this mission! How to find a place for the probe, 'Philae', to land? As Warwick echoed, the aim of the mission was "not to succeed, but not to fail!"
Once the delicate deployment of Philae on the rotating, gas hissing comet was finally achieved, hours of amazing measurements were gathered by Philae. Warwick related the usefulness of space research and cited many examples such as the atomic clocks tested in space in the 70s, which contribute to the GPS that we use daily.
There were many questions from students including "how did Warwick forge a career in Space Engineering?" Warwick emphasised it was his dedication and persistence that put his career in motion. His main motivation, since watching the moon landing in 1969, was that he just craved to work in any field to do with space.
Prior to Warwick's presentation, the Barker Robotics and Zero Robotics team gave a demonstration of their latest thrilling achievements. The Barker team were very fortunate to spend more time talking to Warwick after his presentation, no doubt a memorable and inspiring experience.
We thank Warwick for sharing his expertise with our community and hope he can visit Barker at another time as he continues his work with zero robotics and robotics through the University.