Tomorrow the first ever soft landing on a comet is scheduled. Touchdown should be Wednesday, at 3:35 a.m. Eastern time.
The Philae landing site covers about a third of a square mile. Hopefully, the area is smooth and clear of obstructiongs. However, because it is a comet, Philae will still be close to streams of dust and gas shooting off the surface.
After Philae detaches from Rosetta, it will be pulled down to the surface by the comet’s gravity. Due to the distance from Earth, 300 million miles, the ESA control room will have to wait almost 30 minutes to find out whether the landing was successful.
The downward journey will about seven hours before Philae lands. To keep the lander from bouncing off the surface after touchdown, thrusters will fire while a harpoon and anchors in the lander’s legs will firmly attach Philae to the comet. Very Moby Dick.
After that, the science begins and hopefully the little lander that could won’t be blown off into space by the comet’s ex-gassing.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +