(Credit: Aaron D. O'Connell and Andrew N. Cleland/University of California, Santa Barbara)

Touch and go

The most daring moment of the Rosetta mission will come on 11 November, when mission leaders plan to drop the Philae lander to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will sample and study fresh cometary material. Whereas landings on the moon or Mars are preceded by years of reconnaissance, Rosetta will have just 6 weeks to map the comet's surface and find a suitable landing site for Philae. To avoid bouncing off the comet in the feeble gravity field, Philae is carrying two harpoons, three whirling screws, and a reverse thruster. The lander is prepared to land on surfaces as tough as ice or as soft as cigarette ash.

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Posted in Space, Technology