Monday, November 10, 2014

Landing on a comet: ESA's Rosetta mission

the surface of comet 67P
Mission: Rosetta
Comet: 67P/Churymov-Gerashimenko ("comet 67P" for short)
Lander: Philae
Landing site: Agilkia
Date/Time: 12 November 2014, lander deploy at 2:35am EST, landing confirmation 11:03am EST


-or- Google Hangout:

Some people say it looks like a rubber duck.

This rubber duck is the size of a small mountain at 25 cubic kilometers (for comparison, the Dead Sea is 147 cubic kilometers, Mt. Everest is 2,413 cubic kilometers, or about 10.25 million Olympic swimming pools) and is actually composed of ice and dust and rocks. In other words, it's a comet.

It's taken 10 years for the ESA's (European Space Agency) Rosetta probe to reach this colossal duck in space. Launched in 2004, the spacecraft slingshotted around Earth three times and Mars once to reach its 84,000 mph cruising speed needed to orbit the comet. Along the way, it assisted in other missions such as the Tempel-1 asteroid impact in 2005 and Mars during gravity assist maneuver in 2007. On 12 November 2014, Rosetta will release a lander called Philae -named after an Egyptian obelisk that helped decipher hieroglyphs like the Rosetta stone- to attempt the very first controlled or soft landing on a comet in history.

From NASA:
"After touchdown on Nov. 12, the Philae lander will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet's surface. It will also drill into the surface to study the composition, and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies. Philae can remain active on the surface for about two-and-a-half days. Its mothership, the Rosetta spacecraft, will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun and then moves away."

More information...

ESA Rosetta mission overview
ESA Rosetta and Philae landing timeline (PDF)
JPL/NASA on the Rosetta mssion:
Images from Rosetta:
Planetary Society's landing preview including details on Philae's instruments
More on Rosetta's and Philae's instrumentation

"What is a comet?" from JPL
"Comets: Formation, discovery, and exploration" from
"Solar System Exploration: Comets" from NASA

Look in the stacks around QB720 for books on comets. Here's an example:
Comet science: the study of remnants from the birth of the solar system
QB721 .C7613 2000 (4th floor east, range 43)