Comet landing site chosen for Rosetta lander

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  • Published: Sep 15, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Atomic / X-ray Spectrometry / Infrared Spectroscopy / Proteomics / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base / Chemometrics & Informatics / Base Peak / MRI Spectroscopy

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The primary site for the Philae, the Rosetta lander, on the Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has been chosen from five candidates by ESA scientists and engineers. Their unanimous choice for the planned landing on November 11 is code-named site J which is on the head of the comet.

It was selected because it offers the best overall features, including the best position to gather sunlight to generate power and transfer data from the lander to Rosetta. "None of the sites was really ideal, none of the sites showed the perfect landing area but looking at site J really was the best of the sites," explained Stephan Ulamec who is the Philae project manager. "The terrain is relatively flat to the others but there still some still cliffs in this terrain, there are still boulders in it, so it’s not so easy to land on site J either," he added.

The landing will be risky. It is very different to landing on the Moon or Mars where landing sites are chosen years in advance. The landing area is about 1 km in diameter with least surface features but even if it was perfectly flat, there could be problems such as soft spots. The team have performed some simulations but nothing can prepare them for the real thing - it will not be foolproof. All commands have to be preloaded due to the great distance from Earth and landing will be fully automated.

The news comes just days after Rosetta took a selfie with the comet in the background.

Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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