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Probe set for ‘magical’ alighting on comet

This print expelled by a European Space Agency on Dec 20, 2013 shows an artist’s sense of Rosetta’s lander Philae (back view) on a aspect of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. AFP PHOTO / ESA MEDIALAB

Paris – European scientists are gearing for a perfection of dual decades’ work and a 1.3-billion-euro ($1.6-billion) gamble with a first-ever alighting on a comet on Wednesday.

In an operation diligent with peril, an unmanned scholarship lab called Philae will detach from a European Space Agency (ESA) director Rosetta and deplane to a comet 510 million kilometres from Earth.

If all goes well, a 100-kilo examine will harpoon itself to a aspect of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

It will afterwards lift out experiments that, astrophysicists hope, could be a landmark in bargain a solar complement and a origins of life on Earth.

“Rosetta booster in glorious shape,” ESA tweeted on Tuesday. “Target locked!”

In 1993, when a Rosetta goal was approved, a Internet did not exist, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin were in supervision and a strike film of a year was “Jurassic Park”.

Riding piggyback on Rosetta on a 10-year trek opposite a solar system, Philae has trafficked some-more than 6 billion kilometres to make a ancestral event – spending 957 days of a tour in hibernation.

Mission controllers during Darmstadt, Germany, face a array of 4 “go/no-go” assessments before giving a final authority to let a small path-finder detach from her mothership.

Darmstadt should accept acknowledgment of a subdivision during 0903 GMT on Wednesday.

For veterans of this marathon mission, it will be like a disjunction of an umbilical cord.

“It’s going to be a rather enchanting moment,” pronounced Sylvain Lodiot, ESA moody manager.

Over a following 7 hours, a examine will ever-so-gently deplane over 20 kilometres to a aspect of a four-kilometre-long comet.

It will aim for a alighting site called Agilkia, an egg-shaped mark measuring only 900 metres prolonged by 600 metres wide.

It is deemed to be a slightest dangerous place on a comet studded with rocks and gashed by ravines and cliffs as high as houses – a calamity for a frail lander.

Philae will land during 3.5 kilometres per hour, banishment dual harpoons into a aspect a engineers fervently wish will yield grip.

Ice screws during a finish of a 3 gangly feet will afterwards be driven into a comet, to forestall a labs flapping off into space from an intent with immaterial gravity.

The distance and heft of a fridge behind on Earth, Philae will import only one gram – or reduction than a plume – on “67P”.



For millennia, comets have been a source of fear and awe.

“The astronomical phenomena called comets (excite) wars, exhilarated and violent dispositions in a atmosphere, and in a constitutions of men, with all their immorality consequences,” warned a first-century Egyptian astronomer and astrologer Ptolemy.

Scientists, though, see them differently.

To them, comets are bodies of ice and dirt – a ancient, former element left over from a building of a Solar System.

Doomed to circuit a Sun, a comets comfortable as they proceed a star, causing a fount of gases to shun from their head, and withdrawal a route of ice particles that are dramatically reflected in sunlight.

Some experts trust comets might have helped to boar life on Earth itself.

According to this theory, comets battered a fledgling Earth 4.6 billion years ago, providing it with formidable organic CO molecules and changed water.

Rosetta has already sent home fascinating information on a comet, though Philae will yield a initial on-the-ground assessment, regulating 10 instruments to investigate a comet’s earthy and chemical composition.

Like Rosetta, it will swing a mass spectrometer, a high-tech apparatus to analyse a sample’s chemical signature, directed during sketch adult a finish CO inventory.

A showstopper find would be molecules famous as maladroit amino acids, “the ‘bricks’ with that all proteins on Earth are built,” says ESA. – AFP

Article source: http://www.iol.co.za/probe-set-for-magical-landing-on-comet-1.1778360

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