London: We all are interested in comets. What they contain, and what information they hide about our solar system.
The answer lies in Rosetta - a European spacecraft in hibernation and heading towards a 2.5-mile comet from Jupiter family whose orbits are controlled by the largest planet in the solar system.
On Jan 20 next year, Rosetta is set to receive a wake-up call for an unprecedented mission - to not only put itself into orbit around this comet but also send a lander on it.
“Rosetta should become a key element for our understanding of the history of the solar system,” said Stephan Ulamec, project manager for the spacecraft’s lander.
“It would be really interesting to find out whether the organic chemistry that is relevant for life is there on comets,” he was quoted as saying on Discover News.
The lander- named Philae- has 10 science instruments to tackle a wide range of studies, including an analysis for organic molecules and experiments to test a molecule’s symmetrical construction.
“We are most concerned to find a landing site which is friendly. We have no idea what is on the surface of the comet. We do not know the topography. We do not know the density, the boulders, the crevices, the pinnacles. This lack of knowledge is the big challenge of this mission,” added Ulamec.
To deal with the uncertainty, Philae’s landing system was designed to work on a variety of terrains. Once a suitable landing site is found, Philae will drop to the comet’s surface and release a pair of harpoons laced with tethers to keep itself from bouncing back into space, the report said.
At the time of landing, due for November 2014, the comet will be about three times as far from the sun as earth and heading inward.