Spacecraft set to land probe onto comet after awakening from hibernation in January

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Staff Writer | December 26, 2013

The “Rosetta” spacecraft is set to awaken before preparing to land a probe on the surface of a moving comet for the first time in history

ESA's "Rosetta" (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
ESA’s “Rosetta” (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

(INTELLIHUB) — The European spacecraft Rosetta is set to come out of hibernation in January, when it will then position to land a probe on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a two-and-a-half mile wide comet that is reported to be in orbit with Jupiter.

The mission is designed to better help scientists understand the true building blocks of or universe. 

The lander probe dubbed “Philae” is equipped with a variety of instruments and censors that will examine the comets surface if a landing is successful. 

Irene Klotz with Discovery News wrote:

Landing on 67P is far from assured. For starters, engineers designed Philae not knowing what type of surface it would encounter. One of the first orders of business for the Rosetta science team will be to scrutinize pictures of the comet to find a safe landing site.

“We are most concerned that we are able to find a landing site which is friendly and nice and adequate. We have no idea what is on the surface of the comet. We do not know the topography. We do not know the density, the boulders, the crevices, the pinnacles. This lack of knowledge is the big challenge of this mission,” Ulamec said.

To deal with the uncertainty, Philae’s landing system was designed to work on a variety of terrains. Initially scientists suspected the comet’s body would be icy hard, but as a result of NASA’s 2005 Deep Impact comet mission, they now suspect 67P may be softer and covered in dust.

Either way, once a suitable landing site is found Philae will drop to the comet’s surface and release a pair of harpoons laced with tethers to keep itself from bouncing back into space.

While landing the probe on the comets surface may be a bit tricky and somewhat of a 50/50, the European Space Agency (ESA) remains positive the mission will go well.

Paolo Ferri, ESA’s head of mission operations, has also stated that “nobody has ever done this before”, adding to the tension.

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