News / Science & Technology

ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Cometi
X
George Putic
July 28, 2014 8:19 PM
After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
George Putic

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target - a comet millions of kilometers away from earth.  Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth.

Ten years ago, a European Space Agency rocket took off with a spacecraft called Rosetta, on a mission to perform the most detailed study of a comet.

While asteroids are large rocks, almost like small planets,  comets are mostly made of ice, says Ralph Cordey, the business manager for Airbus Defense and Space, which built the Rosetta spacecraft.

“We know today that our Earth has a great deal of water on it, we don't know exactly where it came from and it's likely that comets had a lot to do with that process," said Cordey.

It took more than 10 years for Rosetta to make three swings around Earth and one around Mars - gathering enough speed to reach the comet named 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 400,000 kilometers from Earth.

For the last two-and-half years many of its onboard systems were in the sleep mode to save energy, says Airbus engineer Simon Barraclough.

“So when we're close to the Sun, a lot of things are on. When we're further from the Sun, a lot of things are off," said Barraclough.

A 'wake-up call' in January brought cheers in the mission headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, as a signal from Rosetta indicated that its computer was wide awake again.

The spacecraft will soon start orbiting the comet at a distance of about 10 kilometers, taking measurements and mapping its surface.  

In November, it is scheduled to release a smaller probe called Philae, which will land on the comet.

Cordey says both Rosetta and Philae will measure the comet’s gas and dust and send pictures of its surface.

“It will also have a very nice radar system onboard it which will communicate with the orbiting spacecraft - the mothercraft - and use the radar signals to probe the heart of the comet's nucleus.  So it's not just looking at the surface or the environment around it, it's actually going to be probing what's underneath the surface," he said.

The probes will travel with the comet for a full year.  

Rosetta will continue measuring how the comet changes as it approaches the sun and starts to warm up, while Philae will analyze samples of the its surface and subsurface.

 

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid