The time and place for the Rosetta to release its lander has been confirmed. The lander, Philae, will be aiming for ‘Site J’ on November 12. at 3:35 am ET. On that date, the Philae will try to make history as the first spacecraft to land on a comet.
“Now that we know where we are definitely aiming for, we are an important step closer to carrying out this exciting – but high-risk – operation,” says Fred Jansen, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager.
Before the Philae lander is released from Rosetta, a series of Go/No-Go calls will be made. The last one will happen on the night of November 11, just a few hours before separation.
From the time of release until landing, it will take about seven hours. More than 250 million miles separate the comet and Earth and it will take 28 minutes and 20 seconds for a signal from Rosetta to reach Earth. Confirmation of separation from the Rosetta won’t be received by the Rosetta team until 4:05 am ET.
As the Philae lander makes its perilous descent towards the comet, it will several images. One image will be of the Rosetta spacecraft just after separation. The rest will be of the comet’s surface as it approaches. Should Philae land safely, it will then take a panorama of its surroundings. We should be in for a treat on November 12 when the images get back to Earth.
After landing on the comet, Philae will conduct experiments for a 64 hour period. That’s how long its primary battery lasts. Further study of the comet will depend on the battery’s ability to recharge. The biggest obstacle for recharging batteries will be the amount of dust on its solar panels after landing.
No matter what, Philae’s mission won’t last for too long. By March 2015, temperatures on the comet are expected to rise to a point that it affects the lander.
Rosetta’s mission will continue as it follows the comet towards the Sun, and then as it slingshots around it to go back to the outer solar system.
We’ll keep you posted on the latest from the Rosetta mission as it happens. Until then, enjoy another beautiful shot of the spacecraft and comet.
Image credit: ESA