While world “leaders” ponce about the world stage with cloying self-agrandisment and breast-beating bravado, A bunch of unsung scientific geniuses have pulled off a space mission that defies imagination by landing a probe on a comet moving at 18 kilometres per second creating a record in space engineering and celestial mathematics during the mission’s 6.5 billion kilometres voyage.
APEC and G20 can only dream of such amazing success!
Rosetta spacecraft: Philae probe touches down on comet’s surface
Scientists have successfully landed a probe on the surface of a comet in an historic first for space exploration, the European Space Agency says.
The lander, named Philae, left the Rosetta spacecraft and after a seven-hour descent, scientists at ESA confirmed its safe landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, just after 3:00am AEDT.
“Philae is talking to us,” said Stephan Ulamec, the lander’s manager.
“We are on the comet.”
“We definitely confirm that the lander is on the surface,” said Andrea Accomazzo, flight operations director.
“We can’t be happier than what we we are now.”
“This is a big step for human civilization,” said the agency’s director general, Jean-Jacques Dordain, as a crowd of scientists, guests and VIPs cheered and applauded in relief.
Unlocking the secrets of comets
The landing is the climax of a 10-year mission and was fraught with risk, given the unknown surface terrain of the comet.
The ESA says the probe may not be securely anchored to the comet after an apparent glitch with its landing harpoons.
“There are some indications that they might not have been fired, which could mean that we are sitting in soft material and we are not anchored,” Mr Ulamec said.
“We have to analyse what is the actual situation.
“We have to know exactly where we land, how did we land.”
The team had earlier discovered that the thruster on board the lander, designed to help it anchor to the surface, was not functioning correctly.
Philae was designed to settle down at a gentle 3.5 kilometres per hour, firing two harpoons in the hope that the comet’s surface would give it grip while it conducts an array of scientific experiments.
Scientists hope the lander, equipped with 10 instruments, will unlock the secrets of comets – primordial clusters of ice and dust that may have helped sow life on Earth.
Getting from Earth to a comet that is travelling towards the Sun at 18 kilometres per second was a landmark in space engineering and celestial mathematics.
The $US1.6-billion Rosetta mission was approved in 1993.
Rosetta, carrying Philae, was hoisted into space in 2004, and took more than a decade to reach its target in August this year, having used the gravitational pull of Earth and Mars as slingshots to build up speed.
The pair covered 6.5 billion kilometres together before the separation before the landing.
Key dates of Rosetta mission
March 2005: Rosetta encounters the Earth, using the planet’s gravity as a slingshot to boost speed.
February 2007: Flies around Mars at a distance of just over 200 kilometres for a gravitational assist.
November 2007: Second Earth flyby.
September 2008: Rosetta flies by asteroid 2,867 Steins at a distance of around 800 kilometres.
November 2009: Third Earth flyby. Rosetta now at top speed as it flies through the asteroid belt.
June 2011 – January 20, 2014: At maximum distance (800 million kilometres) from the Sun and a billion kilometres from home, Rosetta goes into hibernation to conserve energy.
January – May 2014: Rosetta gets the wakeup call to end its long slumber, fires thrusters to gradually brake its speed and near the comet. Early images reveal the comet is shaped like a duck.
August 6, 2014: Rosetta arrives at the comet and begins triangular orbits around it at a height of 100 kilometres. Over the next three months, it scans the comet’s surface and sub-surface with 11 onboard cameras, radar, microwave, infrared and other sensors, providing the most detailed look ever at the surface of a comet.
November 11, 2014: Rosetta sends down a 100-kilogram robot laboratory, Philae. The lander, equipped with 10 instruments, is released at a height of about one kilometre, touching down at walking speed. It fires a small harpoon to anchor itself, starts to send back pictures and conducts chemistry experiments on rock samples.
November 2014 – 2015: Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko loops around the Sun, approaching on August 13, 2015 to within 186 million kilometres of our star.
December 2015: Scheduled end of mission. Escorted by Rosetta and with little Philae piggybacking on it, the comet heads out of the inner Solar System. At this point, Rosetta will once again come close to Earth’s orbit, more than 4,000 days after its odyssey began.