Philae Phone Home
The success of the European Space Agency in sending a probe across billions of kilometres to land on a small comet has captured the headlines. On 12th November those at the Rosetta project’s headquarters cheered as the Philae probe completed the last stages of its epic ten year journey and entered the record books as the first craft both to rendezvous with a comet and to land on its surface.
It is hoped that the mission will help to unlock the secrets of the formation of life on earth. In particular, scientists hope to answer the question of whether comets may have been instrumental in carrying the building blocks of life to our planet.
At the time of writing there is an element of concern about the nature of the landing but the probe has already started to send back close up pictures of the comet’s surface. The fact that, at a time when there are still some areas of the UK which are without phone signal, a probe can send clear pictures 510 million kilometres across the solar system is notable in itself. The fact that it will not only send photos but will stream data which could advance our understanding of the universe whilst it rides on the back of a speeding comet is testimony to the ESA’s meticulous planning and attention to detail.
In a way the success of the Rosetta project reminds us how much we now take instant communication for granted. When we can communicate across the solar system it seems almost unthinkable that we can’t get hold of a supplier across town. Sadly one of the consequences of the information age is that whilst we expect instant communication we cannot be on call all of the time. Meetings, other calls, travel, even talking face to face with employees or customers can all limit our ability to take that call when it arrives.
But with a little bit of planning we can be off-line and still stay in touch. We can switch calls to answerphone, as long as we make sure that we then call back. We can set up an automatic transfer to a virtual assistant, as long as they are properly briefed on likely callers and responses. We can programme a virtual switchboard with hunt groups or ‘time of day’ switching so that calls are routed to someone who can answer on our behalf. And if we go abroad we can set calls to transfer to mobile or to an alternate overseas number.
We may not all be in the business of unlocking the secrets of the universe but at least with a little planning we can better keep in touch with our own immediate business world.