The Rosetta mission prepares for comet landing

This Wednesday, November 12, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft will attempt to make the first ever landing on the surface of a comet.

BAA Council member Nick James is also the Lead Engineer for the ground system which communicates with and tracks the spacecraft. This was developed at BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre in Chelmsford. On Monday, he took a break from preparing for the landing to give us an update on the status of the mission.

In the video to the right, Nick talks through the sequence of events we can look forward to over the next few days. The key moments on Wednesday will be:

06:00 – Rosetta delivery manoeuvre
07:35 – Final Go/No go
09:03 – Philae separates from Rosetta
09:43 – Loss of Rosetta signal during post-delivery manoeuvre
10:53 – Regain signal from Rosetta
11:59 – First descent data
16:02 – Predicted landing time
17:35 – Expected receipt of first 360 deg panorama

It’s remarkable to think that Philae was designed with very little knowledge of what the surface of the comet might look like, and it is going to attempt to land on a body whose escape velocity is no more than around a metre per second.

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