Is it possible to catch the comet?

Man has always sought the unknown: it is not scary nor a bottomless abyss of space, nor the darkest corners of the oceans. Thirst for discovery forces us to tread, even in the most dangerous and inaccessible to any other being on the planet place. The most daring members of the human race starting to explore deep space, even if not yourself, then at least with the help of special devices, one of which was a marvel of engineering — the automatic interplanetary station “Rosetta”, which in 2016 could make a hard landing on the surface of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. What the researchers had to prepare the mission, which lasted over 12 years and do they really managed to catch the comet?

3D rendering of the landing of Rosetta on the comet surface

Is it possible to land on the comet?

A daring plan of mankind to leave its mark on a distant celestial body is almost entirely composed of snow, ice and space dust turned into full creation of the interplanetary station “Rosetta”, which was developed by the European space Agency in collaboration with NASA. For 12.5 years after launch, the device did a distance approximately equal to 300 million kilometers, the journey closed with the desired comet. However, the possibility of landing on the wrong object in the shape of a duck, which, among other things, had a very low gravity, called into question the future success of such an ambitious mission. As the portal newatlas.coma robot the size of a refrigerator, was set before the task is not just to enter orbit around the comet, but to try to sit on its icy surface. The successful outcome of the mission promised scientists to obtain huge amount of information about the stages of development of the Solar system since its birth 4.5 billion years ago.

See also: the Success of the Rosetta mission and the close encounters with comets

In order to catch the comet with a mass of 10 trillion pounds and to try to put an artificially created device this small icy world scientists was necessary at least to place some data on the surface structure, which, of course, they had. The lack of information on the surface of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko led to the fact that the space station “Rosetta” could at any moment to crash after landing at wrong place. When the spacecraft is targeting your target width of 4 km, the world started to introduce to scientists is much more jagged and horrible than they ever expected.

The surface of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Due to early observations of Rosetta with its triangular orbit mankind also learned that the comet is losing water at a rate of 300 milliliters per second, and has an average surface temperature of approximately -70° C, which suggests a particularly dark and dirty comet, which absorbs and not reflects the sunlight.

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The descent of the lander on the comet surface was a completely different task than landing on Mars or the moon. When Rosetta went into orbit Churyumov-Gerasimenko and built a map of the surface of the comet, the mission control center weighed all possible options in search of a possible landing spot, which would be open the sunlight to power the batteries of the lander, it would be free from boulders, sharp slopes, and many other unforeseen hazards, such as solar emissions at the maximum convergence of the comet with our Sun.

The lander drifted towards the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko without power, instead relying on incredibly weak gravitational field of the comet, to draw him to the surface. When the module was able to touch the surface in the comet pierced special drills and harpoons, which were designed to secure the device on the constantly rotating comet. The charge laid in the batteries “Rosetta”, allowed to operate the module for 60 hours, during which time the module spent about 80 percent of their initial research and was able to transmit to Earth a huge amount of priceless data.

When the batteries Rosetta stopped, the unit automatically went into hibernation, suddenly startled scientists a year later and submitting signs of life in the form of eight intermittent signals towards the Earth. Despite this, the European Space Agency has decided to say farewell to the first in the history of mankind device, managed to successfully land on the surface of the comet, in July of 2016.

Thanks to the observations of the automatic station “Rosetta” we now know that the comet smells of rotten eggs, ammonia and hydrogen. We know that once she had a tiny, temporary moon and the comet is blacker than charcoal. We also know that its atmosphere contains key amino acids and molecules that are considered the building blocks of life, and on the surface of the comet is a huge amount of water ice.

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