Tomorrow, Nov. 12, may mark the first time humans have soft-landed on a comet. If this is successful it will be courtesy of The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft which is currently orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it speeds through space. Rosetta will release a lander, called Philae, down to the comet’s surface tomorrow while three different space-focused organizations host Rosetta webcasts for all to watch.
The plan is for Rosetta to release its lander while it hovers 14 miles above the comet’s “dirty face.” This lander is headed for a relatively smooth spot on the comet’s face that Scientists have picked out: an area called “Agilkia.” Scientists will find out if this landing was a success some 28 minutes and 20 seconds later. As this lander maneuvers itself towards the comet it will shoot back information to its mothership which will, in turn, relay that data to people on Earth.
Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Rosetta flight director says, “The surface of this comet is very, very rough. It’s not the ideal place to land on, but this is what we have, and this is what we’re trying to do. We have to be a bit lucky, as well. If the lander hits the surface of the comet in the proximity of a boulder or something like this, then there’s nothing we can do.”
Rosetta and Philae launched into space in 2004. The probe has traveled some 4 billion miles until it finally reached Comet 67P/C-G in August. This mission is said to expand through 2015.