The European Space Agency (ESA) has finally announced the site on comet where its spacecraft will make its first landing in the history, which the Rosetta space probe will do in November this year.
ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta is scheduled to lower its 220 pounds- landing module, Philae, onto the surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, designated as Comet-67P, at a site known simply as ‘J’ or ‘Site J’.
Warwick Holmes, an avionics engineer from Australia who helped in manufacturing Rosetta, said the site ‘J’ was finalized after going through five possible sites that were considered ideal for the landing in late August.
The scientists finalized the site following analysis of the images of all the probable locations to find out the strategies for operation and orbit required to get the probe to each one.
“Landing site J was voted as the favourite site by the majority of Rosetta scientists. It has the best combination of sun illumination, radio coverage to Rosetta, interesting science targets and has the minimum area of surface slopes greater than 30 degrees,” Holmes said.
The ESA has also finalized a backup site for landing in case of any emergency. The backup landing site, known as “C”, is on the main body of the comet.
The lander would perform detailed measurements to characterize the nucleus in situ in an unprecedented way.
The site J would allow proper analysis of pristine material and characterise the properties of the nucleus, besides studying the procedures that drive its activity, said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center.
Philae is expected to touch down the surface of ‘J’on November 11 this year. According to the scientists, the landing should take place before mid-November as the comet is likely to grow more active as it will move closer to the Sun.