Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

AVAILABLE EXPERT: Rosetta Mission on track for comet landing

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Queen’s University space expert David Hanes is available to comment on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission, which is on track for its historic landing on Comet 67P, or Churyumov-Gerasimenko, marking the end to a decade-long mission in space.

Rosetta, the spacecraft, has been carrying a small lander named Philae. Philae is roughly the size of a dishwasher and, on Wednesday morning, is scheduled to detach itself from Rosetta and make a 7-hour descent to the spinning comet. Once landed on the comet, Philae will conduct science that could reveal answers about where Earth’s abundant water supply came from and what started life on Earth.

“Astronomers are awaiting with great anticipation the delicate touchdown of the Philae lander onto Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday,” says Dr. Hanes. “Just as its namesake the Rosetta Stone provided archaeologists with new insights into early civilizations and societies, the cometary mission has the potential to look into the deep past and answer fundamental questions about the primordial material out of which the solar system and its constituent planets formed billions of years ago.”

Due to the comet’s rocky and icy surface, the landing itself won’t be easy.

“After a carefully choreographed decade-long chase through the inner solar system, the mission is not without risk. Even as the lander draws closer to the irregularly-shaped target for the final touchdown, the cosmically tiny comet is coming to life thanks to its inexorable inward motion as it orbits the Sun. Growing activity challenges the delicate final landing stages of the ambitious mission.”   

To arrange an interview, please contact communication officer Rosie Hales at 613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or rosie.hales@queensu.ca or Anne Craig at 613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

Follow Queen’s News and Media Services on Twitter: http://twitter.com/QueensuMedia.

Attention broadcasters: Queen’s has facilities to provide broadcast quality audio and video feeds. For television interviews, we can provide a live, real-time double ender from Kingston with HD-SDI. Please call for details.

Related Experts