News Column

Rosetta space probe identifies 5 possible landing sites on comet

August 26, 2014



Paris, Aug 26 (EFE).- After traveling through the Solar System for 10 years, the Rosetta space probe at the beginning of August reached its destination, Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and now the best place for its Philae module to land in November must be selected from among the five possible locations already identified.

The landing "site must balance the technical needs of the orbiter and lander during all phases of the separation, descent, and landing," the European Space Agency, or ESA, said in a communique.

The spacecraft will launch Philae, a module weighing some 100 kilos (220 lbs.) that will land on the surface of the comet when it is still 450 million kilometers (280 million miles) from the Sun, before activity on the comet "reaches levels that might jeopardise the safe and accurate deployment of Philae to the comet's surface."

The place must also be ideally suited for "operations on the surface with the scientific requirements of the 10 instruments on board Philae," ESA experts said.

For each possible landing site, factors must be analyzed such as whether the landing module will be capable of maintaining contact with Rosetta, and the presence of dangers like large boulders, deep crevasses or steep slopes.

The scientists controlling Philae from Toulouse must ensure that there is "sufficient illumination for scientific operations and enough sunlight to recharge the lander's batteries beyond its initial 64-hour lifetime."

In order to take the final decision, data must be analyzed that has been collected by the space probe from between 100 and 20 kilometers (between 62 and 12 miles) from the comet in the form of "high-resolution images of the surface, measurements of the comet's surface temperature, and the pressure and density of gas around the nucleus."

On Sept. 14 the evaluation of the five candidates will be concluded and one destination and an alternative will be selected. The decision will be announced on Oct. 12, one month before the provisional landing date, which is scheduled for Nov. 11.

The Rosetta mission, the technological pride of European space exploration, could be the key to understanding the history and evolution of our Solar System and to finding answers to "questions regarding the origin of Earth's water and perhaps even life." EFE

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Source: EFE Ingles


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