Washington: The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week away from landing a robotic probe on a comet - a first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a space object.
After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the mission's Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on comet “67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko” Nov 12 at 10.35 a.m. EST, the US space agency reported.
The landing site, formerly known simply as Site J, now has an official name: Agilkia.
The name refers to an island on the Nile where ancient buildings were relocated after the island Philae flooded.
After touchdown, the Philae lander will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet's surface.
It will also drill into the surface to study the composition, and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies.
Philae can remain active on the surface for about two-and-a-half days.
Meanwhile, the Rosetta spacecraft will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015.
The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun and then moves away.
In addition to their well-deserved reputation as beautiful cosmic objects, comets hold vital clues about our solar system's history.
They are considered primitive building blocks of the solar system that are literally frozen in time, and they may have played a part in “seeding” Earth with water and, possibly, the basic ingredients for life.