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The Rosetta Comet Mission

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9/15/2014 6:35:11 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
In November the very first landing in a comet (to the best of my knowledge) will be attempted, it reminded me of the NEAR Shoemaker mission (, which was a similar type of mission to Rosetta, in which a probe rendezvous and orbited it's target asteroid, only that the landing was never planned as part of the mission, and was performed to tie the bow on the end of the mission (and they succeeded!).

This landing however is actually a planned part of the mission. Rosetta which is currently in orbit around Comet 69P will drop it's lander 'Philae' and use the equivilent to screw jacks and anchors to adhere the lander to the surface. The scary part is the chances of success are only estimated at ~70%, due to the irregular terrain of the comet (it's too far away to control the lander in real-time, so all maneuvers need to be programmed hours in advance). and the absurdly low escape velocity of the comet (~50 cm/s) as well as uncertainty in the type of terrain it will land in. A 'J' section of terrain has been selected, but the size of the terrain is less than the uncertainty in the lander's accuracy, so some dice-rolling is going to occur!

Not a small consideration when the mission costs a billion euros!!!

Primary mission objectives include assessing the type of amino acids on the comet, which is of special interest to me since it may give important information regarding abiogenesis (are early amino acids/compounds largely cometary in origin? Is there a significant isomer-bias mechanism between left and right handed amino acids?).

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