ScienceCasts: Mission to Land on a Comet
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ScienceCasts: Mission to Land on a Comet

[ music ] Mission to Land on a Comet. Presented by Science at NASA. Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is en route to intercept a comet, and to make history. In 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and land a probe on it, two firsts. Rosetta’s goal is to learn the primordial story this comet tells as it comes to life transitioning to its more active phase. Comets are primitive leftovers from our solar system’s ‘construction’ about 4.5 billion years ago. Because they spend much of their time in the deep freeze of the outer solar system, comets are well preserved, a gold mine for astronomers who want to know what conditions were like back “in the beginning.” As their elongated orbits swing them closer to the sun, comets transform into the most breathtaking bodies in the night sky. Rosetta will have a front-row seat for the metamorphosis. A European Space Agency mission launched in 2004 with U.S. instruments on board, Rosetta will perform the most comprehensive study of a comet – ever. What we know of comets so far comes from a handful of flyby missions. “In some ways, a flyby is just a tantalizing glimpse of a comet at one stage in its evolution,” says Claudia Alexander, project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta Project at JPL. “Rosetta is different. It will orbit 67P for 17 months. We’ll see this comet evolve right before our eyes as we accompany it toward the sun and back out again.” Fierce solar heat will have a profound effect on Rosetta’s target. “We’ll watch the comet start as just a little nugget in space and then become something poetic and beautiful, trailing a vast tail.” At the moment, Rosetta is “resting up” for the challenges ahead. It’s hibernating, engaged in its high-speed chase while fast asleep. Reveille is at the very beginning of the New Year in 2014, when the spacecraft begins a months-long program of self-checkups. If all goes well, in August of the same year, Rosetta will enter orbit around 67P’s nucleus and begin scanning its surface for a landing site. Once a site is chosen, the spacecraft will descend as low as 1 km to deploy the lander. The lander’s name is “Philae” after an island in the Nile, the site of an obelisk that helped decipher, you guessed it, the Rosetta Stone. Touchdown is scheduled for November 2014, when Philae will make the first ever controlled landing on a comet’s nucleus. “When we land, the comet could already be active!” says Alexander. Since a comet has little gravity, the lander will anchor itself with harpoons. “The feet may drill into something crunchy like permafrost, or maybe into something rock solid.” Once it is fastened, the lander will commence an unprecedented first-hand study of a comet’s nucleus. Among other things, it will gather samples for examination by automatic onboard microscopes and take panoramic images of the comet’s terrain from ground level. Meanwhile, orbiting overhead, the Rosetta spacecraft will be busy, too. Onboard sensors will map the comet’s surface and magnetic field, monitor the comet’s erupting jets and geysers, measure outflow rates, and much more. Together, the orbiter and lander will build up the first 3D picture of the layers and pockets under the surface of a comet. The results should tell quite a story indeed. For more news about comets, both primordial and recent, visit


  • z4k

    Gravity is a wonderful thing. To be able to calculate a path that brings the probe into the path of the comet, at the right moment in time… that's pretty awesome.

  • z4k

    I was interested to find out more about the comet, like how big is it? After all, how much gravity does it have to allow the probe to get into an orbit?

    I know there's info out there on the web in many places, but I tried a site I hadn't immediately considered: WolframAlpha. Search for "Comet 67P" and you get a nice table of info, as well as a graphic showing the orbit relative to the planets and a star chart.
    Some facts: Average diameter 2.5 miles. Orbital period 6.44 years.

  • Dyslexic Artist Theory on the Physics of 'Time'

    Neat vid!
    This is an invitation to see an artist theory on the physics of light and time!

    This theory is based on two postulates

    1. The first is that the quantum wave particle function Ψ represents the forward passage of time ∆E ∆t ≥ h/2π itself photon by photon.

    2. The second is that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle ∆×∆p×≥h/4π that is formed by the wave function is the same uncertainty we have with any future event.

  • Prof. Michael O. Zeee JCD ECS

    @kargenlewis Rosetta is a European effort, and the narrator is misinforming us by saying ….with NASA instruments… which makes it sound like the dumb Europeans can't do it by themselves. All it mean is, that the esa gave NASA a ride. I believe joint effort are better and more cost-effective, but Americans should tell the truth about others and respect them.

  • Sangstar1 Videos Presentations TruthResearchers

    More lies from NASA? Deep Impact evidence of Tempel1 proved that comets have very little ice or water to create such a massive coma and tail. Also no ice snow ball could have survived the massive temperature of our sun at 2 million degrees, and it does not take a scientist, or someone with a PHD to understand this. So to you at NASA any idea that comets are snowball is STUPID STUPID STUPID bad science all around.

  • Combustable Dave Spaceman

    @sangstar1 What? theyre not saying its an 'ice snow ball', it might have a layer of permafrost over the surface. Also its not going thru the sun lol, as far as i understand its doing a flyby of the sun. Just listen instead of being corrupted to the thought that everythings a lie

  • Sangstar1 Videos Presentations TruthResearchers

    @ILoveJewsNBlacks Your personal attacks on me and your explanations are nothing more than Absurd’s, The comical theory which is taught in schools and universities is that of whipple idea that comets are a dirty little snowball. In fact for you to get a PHD you need to walk the line. Comets are not snowball, Tempel1, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
    is not a snowball either they just don’t have the ice and water needed to produce those massive com and tail.

  • Lodivar Diomo, cartagena

    Is this the beginning of Armageddon? …
    Human science against wrath of God, the fulfillment of God's prophecy? God will abolish evil on earth, and renovate, for the sake of God's creation of perfect Humanity that God created…..

  • Astrostevo

    Superluminous (beyond merely brilliant) clip and mission – or missions. Cheers! 🙂

    Given the 'Cassini-Huyghens' craft name I'm wondering why they are not calling this 'Rosetta-Philae?'

    "..engaged in its high-speed chase while fast asleep .." Don't try this at home – or on the roads! – folks. That line made me smile.

    Loved the breath-taking image of Comet McNaught 2007 at the 50 second mark too. Wonder how much Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will resemble that comet at perihelion?

  • Astrostevo

    No. The mass of the orbiter and impact of the lander is far too low to affect the path of the comet especially when you consider the relative velocities involved. The comet is travelling super-fast and the orbiter and lander are matching that velocity & orbital path then the orbiter is joining it on that same orbital trajectory whilst the lander is docking with it. It's like a bee circling & landing on your car travelling full speed down the highway. That will "move" your car about the same.

  • Juan David Escudero Agudelo

    U must to make better a system who when satellitle comes again to earth…. (cause they comes back at some kind of time), and when satellitle stay coming, so that system get again frecuency with the nasa on earth or maybe on the space….. "even we dont know when the real time is comming" ;)…. and in that way, maybe we could send signal to other parts in the universe where maybe intelligent life could be…. and maybe they will come watching over universe and new thins on there !!! God Good

  • Ahish Deshpande

    What will happen after it finishes testing and after 17 months, how will the lander or whatever that landed return back to earth? or will it return?

  • Hannodb1961

    That is if the comet's electric charge don't zap the lander to bits – like the last time we tried to land something on a comet. 

  • Jimmay Timmay

                first step to nuking one if need i could get into that,masters of the universe title,but probably,need a rover to find a depression.

  • Jimmay Timmay

                vesta is perfect for mars and close,now that would be ball just roll up to it start gravity tugging what could be gd simpler.

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