We’ve put robots on both the moon and mars, but scientists have never tried to soft-land a robot on a comet–until now. In this episode of The Countdown, we cover everything you need to know about the European Space Agency’s groundbreaking Rosetta mission.
Even the lander’s missteps generated valuable data
As the European Space Agency’s Philae lander bounced and settled onto the surface of comet 67P/C-G’s crumbly nucleus it wasn’t just space exploration, it was time travel.
It’s summer in the northern hemisphere of a small, damp, planet orbiting a middle-aged star in a spiral galaxy of matter enjoying a brief heyday before colliding with another galaxy in some 4 billion orbits of the same small, damp, planet.
Over the coming month the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission will fire its main engines no less than eight times to tweak its interplanetary intercept course with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko; eventually sidling up to the 4 kilometer wide cometary nucleus at about 7.9 meters per second in early August.
This week brings a video reconstructed from images of the Philae lander's approach to a comet, and a major new analysis of data from the Cassini mission that bolsters the case for a global, not just local, ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus
A stunning library of comet close-ups
On November 12th 2014 the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will eject the small robotic lander Philae on a trajectory that should take it down to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-P for short).