Tags: rosetta | landing | site | probe | comet

Rosetta Landing: Site Determined for Probe to Land on Moving Comet

Image: Rosetta Landing: Site Determined for Probe to Land on Moving Comet
In this handout illustrartion from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Rosetta spacecraft is seen. ESA's Rosetta spacecraft became the first to rendezvous with a comet and will follow it on the journey around the sun. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 15 Sep 2014 08:37 PM

Scientists have decided on a landing spot for the Rosetta probe that will alight on a comet that is moving through space at 34,000 mph.

The landing is a key moment in decade-long mission to examine comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and learn more about the origins and evolution of objects in the universe, The Associated Press said.

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"This is absolutely a unique mission," said mission manager Fred Jansen, comparing the complexity of landing on the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide comet with that of landing a spacecraft on far larger objects like the moon or Mars.

The unmanned Rosetta probe has been flying alongside 67P since August, sending back high-resolution images that allowed scientists to shortlist five possible landing sites. They chose one — dubbed "J" for now — based on its relatively safe terrain and proximity to interesting features on the comet.

But Stephan Ulamec, manager of the Philae lander project, said even with that site "the risk is high."

For one, scientists don't know how hard the comet's surface is or how active it will be on Nov. 11. Like all comets, 67P's icy body has begun to fizz and spray matter as it nears the sun.

Another problem is that the comet has just 1/100,000th the gravity of Earth, so the 100-kilogram (220-pound) lander will have to use harpoons and screws to avoid bouncing back into the void.

Add to this the fact that the lander was designed 15 years ago, before ESA even knew which comet it would be aiming for.

Still, despite the challenges, there will be no dress rehearsal.

"Time has come to make it happen," said Rosetta flight director Andrea Accomazzo.

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Scientists have decided on a landing spot for the Rosetta probe that will alight on a comet that is moving through space at 34,000 mph.
rosetta, landing, site, probe, comet
298
2014-37-15
Monday, 15 Sep 2014 08:37 PM
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