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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More