What’s one of the first things you do when arriving at a new destination? Likely it would be scoping out the local neighborhood. Getting a sense of its terrain and the good things to do around there.
That’s part of what Rosetta’s team is working on since arriving at its comet early in the morning of Aug. 6 (Eastern time). While only a few pictures have been beamed back to the public so far of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the glimpses of its surface are tantalizing. Which is important, because a little spacecraft is on its way there.
As the team busily calibrates its instruments and snaps pictures of the surface, one of their first tasks will be to pick a landing site for Philae, the machine that is scheduled to leave Rosetta and actually touch softly down on the surface in November. This is the first time such a soft-landing has been attempted, and it’s been a long decade of waiting for the scientists who sent the two spacecraft on their way.
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Picking a spot will be difficult for the team, they explained last week. The gravity is light and the terrain is not only difficult to navigate, but also hard to choose from. Would you prefer a crater or a cliff? That will be what science investigators will examine in the coming months.
As they do that, check out the latest pictures of the comet in the gallery below.