Saturday, 27 September 2014

Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

Philae is about the size of a washing machine.
It will use harpoons and screws to try to hold itself down

The date has been fixed for Europe's daring attempt to land on a comet: Wednesday 12 November.
It will see the Rosetta satellite, which is currently orbiting the huge "ice mountain" known as 67P, 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 1km-wide zone at roughly 15:35 GMT.

The European Space Agency (Esa) says the challenges ahead are immense.

Imagine pushing a washing machine out the back of an airliner at twice cruising altitude and expecting it to hit Regent's Park in London - all while the ground is moving underneath.

Although not really analogous for many reasons, this scenario does give a sense of the difficulties involved.

The chances of failure are high.