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
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.
What happens when you make a low-level flyby of a cometary nucleus? You get jaw-dropping images. The above 2-shot mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by ESA’s Rosetta orbiter at an effective altitude of just 19.9 kilometers.
Probably not, but just possibly yes. One of the reasons that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is so exciting is that it would take only one chance discovery, one lucky break, for all the walls to come tumbling down.
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.
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.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has now released the first narrow-angle color composite image of Comet 67P – taken through a set of red, green, and blue filters.
Over the years humans have deployed spacecraft into some wild, wacky, and extremely clever orbital configurations to better study the cosmos.
Scientific discoveries across all fields just keep coming and coming. Here’s a small assortment of goodies from the past couple of weeks.
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).
For the first time two spacecraft will soon make up-close studies of objects from the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region beyond Neptune’s orbit.