How Scientists Hope to Land a Spacecraft on a Speeding Comet

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PHOTO: The comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen in a print taken by a Rosetta booster with a OSIRIS narrow-angle camera Aug 3, 2014.

Rosetta already has left where no other booster has ever attempted to go before, apropos a initial to circuit a comet — in this box one that can pierce during some-more than 80,000 miles per hour.

And now, scientists are on a verge of a adventurous try to land a examine from a vessel on comet 67P, a comet made like a rubber steep that Rosetta has been chasing around a solar complement like a vast pingpong round for 10 years.

This goal has perplexed even “Star Trek” Commander Captain Kirk — call a actor who played him, William Shatner, to send his best wishes.

When Rosetta phones home to a European Space Agency’s goal control in Darmstadt, Germany, it will take 28 mins for a vigilance to strech Earth, roving 317,520,679 miles.

NASA will promote a event, and ESA will tide it live, as well.

Rosetta will be 14 miles from a comet when it launches a comet harpoon, Philae, during 3:35 a.m. ET Wednesday. ESA will get a initial vigilance during 4:03 a.m. ET.

The booster is scheduled to land during 8:30 a.m. ET, and by 11 a.m. ET we will know if it strike a aim and is functioning.

Phil Plait, an astronomer and author vital in Boulder, Colorado, who writes a “Bad Astronomy” blog for Slate, pronounced this goal is unusual in each probable way.

“There’s a small machine. It’s going to detach from a probe, itself, land physically on a comet and afterwards take samples and examine it right there on a surface,” he said. “Never been finished before.”

ESA will give a “go” — or “no go” — 7 hours before a examine is expelled from Rosetta. If a systems are not ready, ESA will pierce Rosetta to a aloft circuit and try again in dual weeks.

Italian wanderer Samantha Cristoforetti will take time off from preparations for her launch to a International Space Station subsequent week to watch this.

“It is impossibly exciting, a goal of firsts,” Cristoforetti said. “There are so many things that have never been attempted before — rendezvousing with a comet, attempting a landing, even technological firsts. Rosetta has left all a approach to 800 million kilometers from a sun. To give we an idea, a Earth is usually 150 million kilometers from a sun.”

Rosetta positively has a clarity of amusement about a goal — even pausing for selfies with a aim comet.

PHOTO: This combination picture shows tools of Rosetta in front of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Once Philae lands, it will take some time to get a initial pictures. ESA’s goal control will get a tie dual hours after separation. Then, a lander will start promulgation information to a orbiter, after that it finally will be relayed behind to Earth.

The information Rosetta will learn from this goal could change what we know about how a universe, Plait said. After all, he added, this comet is one large time plug — “a four-and-a-half-billion-year-old time plug revelation us, ‘Hey, what were conditions like when a Earth itself was usually forming? That’s HUGE. We can learn so most about a ancient solar complement by study comets adult close.”

Rosetta, launched 10 years ago from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and has already defied a odds. In January, a booster famously “woke up” after a 31-month-long hibernation period, tweeting, “Hello World.”

PHOTO: An consultant watches his screens during a European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany

One can usually suppose what Philae will twitter after it lands on Comet 67P.

How do we land on a comet? It’s tough when we don’t know what to design — and no one has finished this before.

The pretence is to find a well-spoken alighting mark with no rocks and no slope, generally when a booster is free-falling toward a comet, counting on a sobriety to lift it to a protected touch-down.

If this succeeds, it doesn’t meant a finish of a goal for Rosetta. It’s usually a median point, Cristoforetti said.

“It’s going to indeed accompany this comet all a approach on a trail by a inner solar complement as it approaches a sun,” Cristoforetti said, “all a approach to a closest indicate to a object — and it will accompany it as it heads behind out.”

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