So this spacecraft — taking this picture — is going to land on the surface of THAT comet. Doesn’t this give you a pit in your stomach? This is a selfie taken from the Philae spacecraft that, riding piggyback, captured the side of the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The image is so close-up — just 9.9 miles (16 kilometers) from 67P’s surface — that mission planners can even spot Landing Site J on the comet’s smaller lobe.
“Two images, one with a short exposure time, one with a longer one, were combined to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene, from the bright parts of the solar arrays to the dark comet and the dark insulation cladding the Rosetta spacecraft,” the European Space Agency stated.
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It’s quite the zoom-in after the last selfie that Philae produced for the public in September, which was taken from 31 miles (50 kilometers) away. The spacecraft is expected to make the first touchdown ever on a comet next month. Rosetta, meanwhile, will keep following 67P as it gets closest to the sun in 2015, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
Tomorrow (Oct. 15), mission managers will announce if Site J is go or no go for a landing. More information is coming from Rosetta’s examination of the site from its new, lower altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).
Source: European Space Agency