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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora