Science News

How to land a probe on a comet…

The ESA (European Space Agency) has revealed exactly how it’s planning on landing the Rosetta Probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. After a ten year journey through space the Rosetta Probe will reach the comet in August 2014. Since the probe’s launch in 2004, the probe has circled the Sun five times.

The coldest, loneliest leg of the journey was when the probe hurtled out into space before the ESA put the probe into “deep space hibernation”. The probe has since been in hibernation for two years. It’s hoped that this will have conserved enough energy to perform the tricky manoeuvre of landing on the probe at exactly the right time. This will end a ten year journey through space and the probe will hopefully land on the Comet in August 2014.

It’s final destination: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbits the Sun once every 6.4 years and it will next reach it’s closest point to the sun in August 2015. The probe will carry out a complex series of manoeuvres to reduce the speration between the comet and Rosetta probe. This reduction could be from around 100km to 25-30km. This close orbit and detailed mapping will allow scientists to determine the landing site for the probe’s Philae Lander. In November the Philae Lander will be deployed and come within 2.5km of the comet’s nucleus.



This picture shows the relative paths of the Rosetta probe and its target Comet


One thought on “How to land a probe on a comet…

  1. Where can I obtain 67P orbit coordinates for a high school project that one of my students wants to carry out in Jan 2015?
    Same question for Rosetta orbit coordinates as a function of time?

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