A local shopping precinct in Redwood Drive/Parkhill Road, Burntwood has played an unlikely, yet significant, role in the European space programme.
The European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta probe was awakened this week after a ten-year trek across the Solar System. Its destination is a periodic comet known as Comet 67P.
The Rosetta orbiter will rendezvous with Comet 67P and release a small robotic lander, the Philae Lander, for a controlled touchdown onto its surface. This will be a difficult and hazardous stage of the mission as the robot approaches the craggy, uneven and pockmarked surface of this mysterious cosmic iceberg.
To the astonishment of many local residents, a replica of the Philae Lander was launched by ESA in Redwood Park yesterday (Wednesday) and brought down to earth in a series of controlled landings in the Burntwood shopping centre car park by mission scientists.
Dr Mathias Lauer, mission controller of the lander phase of the project, was delighted:
‘As a training exercise we needed to simulate the harsh alien environment of the comet as closely as possible. With its hazardous, craggy, uneven and pockmarked surface the Burntwood car park proved to be the ideal test site. The exercise proved to be a huge success, I estimate that we have covered 95% of all possible mission-threatening events likely to be encountered by the landing vehicle on the various challenging areas of this hostile local terrain.’
Not everyone is as starstruck, local resident Mrs Pam Boreham commented:
‘I’ve been complaining about the state of this car park for years, my late mother was shuffling round inside one to those potholes for hours before I arrived to help her out.’
Sankeys Fish Bar owner Georgios Papadopoulos however was quick to take advantage of the news of ESA’s involvement, he said :
‘I’m delighted to hear that the car park has found a suitable use and more delighted that my shop is a mile down the road from it. But to celebrate we’ve launched a new commemorative dish, “The Philae of Fish on a Bed of Chippings”’.
Councillor Susan Woodward (Lab) of Chase Terrace Ward, who based her recent election campaign on a manifesto pledge to resurface the area, commented:
‘I’m always delighted to hear about inward investment to the Ward, but for the life of me my dear, I’ve no idea where this car park is ?’
The ESA has now taken off, but the publicity has come to the attention of filmmaker Martin Scorsese who has shortlisted Burntwood as the location for his next film, ‘Kiev: The Final Days’.
Anyone who has been affected by the condition of the shopping precinct car park can point Councillor Woodward in the right direction by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org