In a stunning setback for the Russian Space Agency (RSA), the Chekhov space probe on Wednesday crashed into the immense retaining wall at the edge of the universe, scattering debris on both sides of the barrier that separates everything from nothing — divides all that is from all that is not.
Preliminary evidence points to curiosity as the probable cause of the crash. Several scientists at the RSA’s mission control center in Moscow acknowledged a deep interest in steering the Chekhov spacecraft as close to the cosmic wall as possible in order to conduct experiments and to photograph what appears to be graffiti on it.
“It’s understandable that curiosity might get the best of even the most careful and committed scientist,” said a person familiar with the mission, who, given his leadership role in navigating the space probe, asked that his name be withheld along with his age, weight, eye-color, and style of clothing. “I mean, think about the temptation here. For the past 6,000 years, whenever people haven’t been eating or making love or watching sports, they’ve been wondering about the nature of the fence or railing at the far end of the universe. They’ve imagined themselves approaching the boundary, touching it and then sticking a toe over it to see what would happen. Well, with the Chekhov spacecraft we actually had the chance to do that.”
Predictably, the disaster has drawn the attention of philosophers and theologians eager to learn the ontological status of the debris that landed beyond the perimeter of the cosmos. An image taken by the probe’s sole functioning camera shows a large piece of fuselage resting just inches outside the universe.
“We would give 10 times our annual academic budget for the opportunity to have one of our teaching assistants reach a hand across that boundary and snatch a piece of wreckage,” said Jane Cavendish, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kent and co-author of the book “Tossing Pebbles Outside the Universe from a Position Inside It.”
Meanwhile, mission scientists and administrators remain concerned about the breach in the retaining wall caused by the crash. The nothingness previously held at bay by the wall is now cascading into the universe at an unsustainable rate, threatening to fill up the world with nothing.