European Space Agency‘s unmanned space probe Rosetta’s landing site will finally be revealed this week. The site will be unveiled for the first landing in history on a comet that is planned ahead in November. It will be the first time any space agency has attempted a soft landing on a comet.
Since early August, ESA’s Rosetta probe has been in close proximity to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko- a 10-billion-tonne mass of ice and dust some 400 million km from Earth.
Rosetta, launched on 2 March 2004 was named after the Rosetta Stone, a stele of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. It is a robotic space probe built and to perform a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, that was named after its 1969 discoverers Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko. It arrived near the comet on 6 August 2014 and is orbiting and monitoring it from a distance of less than 100 kilometers.
Philae robotic lander, weighing about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) , is set to touch the ground on Nov. 11.
Scientists have been analyzing both sides of the asteroid, with its distinct outline that recollects the sight of a rubber duck for some researchers, to restrict to 5 final probable landing sites, that ESA announced on Aug. 25 in a meeting.
ESA is expected to announce both their chosen prime and back-up landing target for Philae robotic lander on Monday.
The site chosen is warned by ESA to be extremely challenging.
Also the event is planned to occur at such far distance from Earth that real-time radio control will be impossible.
Rosetta manoeuvred to within 30km of 67P in the past few days- close enough to be gravitationally bound to the “ice mountain”.
“Everything we’ve discovered at 67P/C-G so far says that we’ve chosen a fantastic comet to visit,” said Dr Christopher Carr, a principal investigator on the Rosetta Plasma Consortium instruments.
“There’s a genuine sense of excitement within the Rosetta community, and we’re all looking forward to the year ahead.
“No spacecraft has ever orbited an active comet before, so there’s a lot to learn about spacecraft and instrument operations, but we’ve got a really robust mission carrying some of the best instrumentation possible, and I have to say that the operations teams at the European Space Agency are doing a great job – they are true professionals,” the scientist told.
But Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor also explained that power is a vital consideration. Philae’s batteries will be charged for 64 hours but the lander will require sunlight to generate more energy in order to extended science mission.
“There are certain parts of the comet where you won’t be able to do any science because you will never get the lander in enough sunlight to be able to recharge the batteries,” Taylor told.
After landing the probe will attach itself to the surface, and then Philae is also expected to deliver important information to scientists for a period of about four months.
It will continue observing the evolution of the comet’s activity through the end of 2015.