European Space Agency’s Rosetta Spacecraft To Deploy Its Lander Philae On Wednesday
Space history will be made this week when the first man-made object will make the daring attempt of landing on a comet.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of Comet 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12.
Rosetta (supported by scientists in the UK) has been mapping the comet’s surface; making important measurements of its gravity, mass and shape; assessing its gaseous, dustladen atmosphere; and probing its plasma environment.
Once Rosetta has released the Philae lander on November 12 it will continue to follow the comet around the Sun and as it moves back out towards the orbit of Jupiter.
Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the solar system and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life.
Rosetta will release Philae on Nov 12 at a distance of approximately 22.5km from the centre of the comet.
Landing will be about seven hours later.
During the seven-hour descent, Philae will take images and conduct science experiments, sampling the dust, gas and plasma environment close to the comet.
It will take a ‘farewell’ image of the Rosetta orbiter shortly after separation, along with a number of images as it approaches the comet surface.
The first sequence of surface science experiments will begin about an hour after touchdown and will last for 64 hours, constrained by the lander’s primary battery lifetime.
Long-term study of the comet by Philae will depend on for how long and how well the batteries are able to recharge, which in turn is re lated to the amount of dust that settles on its solar panels.
The Rosetta satellite will drop a small robot from a height of 20km.
If all goes well, the lander will free-fall towards the comet, making contact with the surface somewhere in a 1 km wide zone.
The Rosetta orbiter will continue to study the comet and its environment using its 11 science instruments as they orbit the Sun together.
The comet is on an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun.