Rosetta ready to deploy landing robot to Comet 67P

The Rosetta probe is set to dispatch its lander robot on Comet 67P on November 11, after scientists at the European Space Agency spent weeks selecting an ideal landing site for the spacecraft.

    2014/09/16

NSFW    The Rosetta probe is set to dispatch its lander robot on Comet 67P on November 11, after scientists at the European Space Agency spent weeks selecting an ideal landing site for the spacecraft.

After travelling six billion kilometres, the Rosetta probe, which was launched in 2004, finally entered the orbit of the four kilometre-long Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August.

The European Science Agency has chosen site J for landing, as the area is relatively flat. Scientists initially selected five potential landing sites. They also selected a back-up site C, which is located on Comet 67P’s larger lobe.

On November 11, the Rosetta will deploy its Philae lander about 10 kilometres away from the comet. The robot will harpoon itself to the comet from where it will transmit communications back to Earth. The process of detachment and landing will take about seven hours.

The site also has good lighting, which will allow the craft’s solar batteries to be recharged, the BBC reported. Both sites J and C are now mapped, which will hopefully provide more details and ensure a smooth landing.

Researchers estimate the chances of a trouble-free landing at between 70 and 75 percent. It is still a tortuous endeavour, as site J also has cliffs and boulders. The gravitational pull is also significantly lower than Earth, making a soft-landing extremely difficult.

While a successful landing will enable the robot to collect valuable in-situ information about the comet, the Rosetta probe’s entrance into the comet’s orbit means that the mission has largely been accomplished.
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