Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Title text: To motivate it to fire its harpoons hard enough, Rosetta's Philae lander has been programmed to believe it is trying to kill the comet.
The latter peak on this graph refers to the Rosetta unmanned spacecraft. As part of its mission, it's carrying two tethers to anchor itself to the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
The first peak is probably a joke. Officially, Apollo 12 carried neither harpoons nor rum. However, Randall may have heard many insider-stories while working at NASA. He may know more about space-shenanigans than the general public. This is also a pun based off of the Harpoon brand of Jamaican Rum.
The caption implies that the spacecraft is sentient, and believes that its mission is to kill the comet. This is obviously a parody of Moby Dick, where Captain Ahab hunts a sperm whale named Moby Dick on his ship, named Pequod. Also, it is impossible to create sentient spacecraft with today's technology.
- Number of harpoons in space
- by year
- [A chart with a red graph is drawn below]
- [The y-axis]
- 0 1 2 3
- [The x-axis]
- 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
- [The graph is at zero until a sharp peak to 1 in 1970. The peak is labeled]
- Apollo 12 rum incident
- [The graph then stays at 0 until 2004. Then it rises to 2 and stays there until today, continuing as a dotted line after 2014. The rise is labeled]
- Rosetta comet mission launched carrying lander with harpoon tethers
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