"فيلة" يدخل التاريخ كاول مسبار يهبط على سطح مذنب

رئيس التحرير
2019.06.17 08:29

 

 
12 نوفمبر/ تشرين الثاني 2014
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تمكن المسبار الفضائي "فيلة" من الهبوط على النيزك "شيرموف جيراسمينكو" وذلك بعد انطلاقه من سفينة الفضاء روزيتا التابعة للاتحاد الاوروبي والتى حلقت لبرهة فوق النيزك.

وتعد هذه المرة الاولى في تاريخ البشرية التى يتمكن الانسان فيها من انزال مسبارعلى سطح احد النيازك.

وارسل المسبار اول اشاراته الى غرفة التحكم في دارمشتاد في المانيا ليبدأ في نقل الصور والبيانات من فوق سطح المذنب الثلجي والذي جاء من خارج المجموعة الشمسية.

وتتكون المذنبات في اجزاء بعيدة من الفضاء ثم تقترب من المجموعة الشمسية بسبب جاذبية الشمس وتدور حولها قبل ان تعود الى خارج المجموعة الشمسية مرة اخرى اذا لم تختفي بشكل كامل في رحلتها نحو الشمس.

وقال جان جاك دوردان رئيس فريق تسيير المسبار في غرفة التحكم "فيلة يتحدث الينا ونحن الان فوق سطح المذنب".

ومن المفترض ان تفيد البيانات والصور التى يرسلها فيلة في فهم طبيعة وتكوين النيزك.

ويامل الباحثون ان تحوي البيانات التى سيحصلون عليها من فيلة ما يساعدهم في فهم طبيعة تشكل المجموعة الشمسية قبل نحو 5 مليارات سنة.

ويمكن لهذه العينات ان تكشف كيف تشكلت الارض والكواكب الاخرى لان المذنبات هي مخلفات نتجت عن تشكل المجموعة الشمسية.

ويعتقد علماء ان المذنبات قد تكون مسؤولة عن جلب جزء كبير من المياه التي تمتليء بها المحيطات الان.

احتفال فريق العمل في دارمشتاد بعد نجاح عملية الهبوط فيلاي ينطلق من روزيتا الى سطح النيزك متابعة دقيقة في غرفة المراقبة لتحركات فيلاي صورة من روزيتا يظهر فيها المذنب



دارمشتادت (ألمانيا) - فرانس برس

نجح الروبوت "فايلاي" في الهبوط على سطح مذنب لاول مرة في تاريخ الفضاء، في ما يعتبر تتويجا للمساعي العلمية لاستكشاف أصل النظام الشمسي، بحسب ما افادت وكالة الفضاء الاوروبية يوم الاربعاء.

وهبط الروبوت - المختبر على سطح المذنب "67 بي/تشوريوموف-غيراسيمنكو" بعد نحو سبع ساعات من انفصاله عن المركبة الام روزيتا على بعد اكثر من 510 ملايين كلم عن الارض، بحسب الوكالة.

وقال ستيفان اولاميتش مدير الروبوت العلمي ان "فايلاي بدأ يتحدث إلينا .. ونحن على سطح المذنب".

وصرحت اندريا اكومازو مديرة عمليات التحليق قائلة: "نحن نؤكد بشكل قاطع ان الروبوت موجود على سطح" المذنب، مضيفة "نحن في غاية السعادة الآن".

وقال المدير العام للوكالة جان-جاك دوردان "هذه خطوة كبيرة في تاريخ الحضارة البشرية"، فيما وقف حشد من العلماء والضيوف وكبار الشخصيات مهللين ومصفقين في ارتياح عند الاعلان عن الهبوط.

وبعث فريق فايلاي رسالة على "تويتر" تقول: "تم الهبوط، عنواني الجديد هو: 67 بي".

ويامل العلماء في ان يتمكن الروبوت المزود بعشرة اجهزة، من فك اسرار المذنبات، وهي اجرام قديمة مكونة من الثلج والغبار يعتقد انها ساعدت في تشكيل الحياة على الارض.

ويعتبر الوصول من الارض الى اي مذنب يسافر باتجاه الشمس بسرعة 18 كلم في الثانية خطوة تاريخية في تاريخ الهندسة الفضائية وحسابات الاجرام.

وحصلت مهمة روزيتا البالغة كلفتها 1.3 مليار يورو (1.6 مليار دولار)،على الموافقة في 1993.

وانطلقت المركبة روزيتا التي تحمل الروبوت فايلاي الى الفضاء في 2004، واستغرق وصولها الى هدفها في اب/اغسطس من هذا العام نحو العشر سنوات، حيث تم استخدام قوة الجاذبية بين الارض والمريخ لتسريع حركة المركبة.

وقطعت المركبة والروبوت مسافة 6.5 مليار كلم معا قبل ان ينفصلا الاربعاء استعدادا لهبوط الروبوت على المذنب

g probe on a comet after 10-year mission - but reveal Philae BOUNCED on the surface as harpoons supposed to tether it did not fire Philae made incredible landing on comet 67P today at 3.30pm GMT making it first craft in history to land on a comet Probe separated from the Rosetta spacecraft seven hours earlier after 10 year mission to comet Its a big step for human civilisation, said Esa director general as control room erupted with applause First image by Philae showed Rosetta 50 seconds after separation as it headed towards planet Scientists were worried thruster problem would scupper the landing as it was not working Harpoons also failed to fire, leaving lander attached to come by ice screws in its leg Team has not released images from the surface yet 

Scientists have landed a probe on a comets surface for the first (and second) time in history.

After a daring seven-hour descent, and despite problems with its thrusters, the Rosetta crafts probe, Philae, touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

However, controllers have revealed that because harpoons supposed to tether it to the surface had not fired, the lander may have actually bounced, effectively landing twice - and leaving it attached only by screws on its legs. 

Scroll down for a live feed from mission control 

The final approach: This image shows comet 67P/CG from a distance of approximately 3 km from the surface

Rosettas probe, Philae, has successfully landed on its comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Pictured is the mission control team in Darmstadt, Germany celebrating immediately after the announcement 

The lander announced its arrival with this historic tweet for its ten year mission

Its complicated to land on a comet, and complicated to understand what has happened during this landing, said Dr Stefan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager.

The good news is we touched down, we had a clear signal and recieved data.

The not so good news is that the anchoring harpoons did not fire. We looked into the data, and we dont fully understand what has happened.

We had fluctuations in the radio link, but it always came back again.

Some of the details indicate the lander may have lifted off again, it is bouncing. 

Two hours later, this stopped. We may have landed not once, but twice.

In an emotional speech, Esa director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said: Its a big step for human civilisation.

Scientists hope data from the probe will help reveal how the solar system was first created 4.5 billion years ago.

The confirmation of the landing was relayed via Rosetta to Earth and picked up simultaneously by a ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and Madrid, Spain, before being confirmed in Darmstadt.

Esa and its Rosetta mission partners achieved something extraordinary today, said Dordain.

Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured another place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a probe to a comets surface.

Almost there! An image from the lander as it approached the surface

Overjoyed: The Ukrainian astronomer Klim Tchurjumov (right), one of the discoverers of the comet 67P/Tchurjumov-Gerassimenko, and ESA General Director Jean-Jacques Dordain (left) hug each other at the satellite control center of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Darmstadt, Germany

Ahead of the landing, Rosetta took a number of images of Philae during its daring descent. This view shows the landers consert antennae deployed. It also shows three lander feet and the Rolis descent camera boom

At mission control the news was greeted with jubilation and high emotion by staff on the project

Applause: Media and dignitaries from around the world erupt in applause as they hear of Philaes success

After more than 10 years travelling through space, were now making the best ever scientific analysis of one of the oldest remnants of our solar system, added Alvaro Giménez, Esas director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

Decades of preparation have paved the way for todays success, ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration. 

Hollywood is good, but Rosetta is better - said the UK Space Agency CEO Dr David Parker.

However, while the lander has touched down on the comet using its harpoons, scientists said that it had not yet deployed its anchors which meant that it was not completely attached to the surface.

The surface was much softer than they expected, so there were some concerns that it was not securely fixed on the comet – although from a software point of view things seemed to be fine.

Engineers will attempt to fire the anchors again soon in order to keep Philae attached to the surface of the comet.  

Esa director general Jean-Jacques Dordain (pictured) said: This is a big step for human civilisation

Bye Rosetta! This image released shows the Philae landers view of the Rosetta spacecraft 50 seconds after it was released at 08.35am GMT. It is blurry because the probe was rotating at the time

Rosetta has chased comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko through space for more than ten years in what has been described as the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever

Rosetta has chased comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko through space for more than ten years in what has been described as the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever. 

Speaking live on TV, Matt Taylor, project scientist of Rosetta, talked about the complexities of the mission.

I said she was sexy but I never said she was easy, he said, describing the thruster issue that worried scientists earlier today.

Despite this, after a four billion mile (6.5 billion km) journey, the probe successfully released Philae from its grip to land on the comet, travelling at 1 metre (40 inches) per second.

At 08.35 GMT today, mission control in Darmstadt, Germany sent a command to release the Philae probe from Rosettas grip. This picture shows the boulder-strewn neck region of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It was captured around 4.8 miles (7.7km) from the surface of the comet

Ecstatic: Mission scientists have undergone an agonising seven-hour wait today, as Philae fell to its comet 

Success! Scientists were shown looking emotional as they realised they had made space history

We are extremely relieved to be safely on the surface of the comet, especially given the extra challenge of the comets unusual shape and unexpectedly hazardous surface, said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center. 

In the next hours well learn exactly where and how weve landed, and well start getting as much science as we can from the surface of this fascinating world.

Engineers were forced to endure a tense wait to discover whether the lander successfully grabbed onto the comet at 3.30pm GMT.

Ahead of the landing, Rosetta captured several images of Philae during its daring mission using its Osiris camera.

One stunning shot showed the landers antennae deployed, along with all three lander feet and the Rolis descent camera boom that took the photograph of Rosetta.

A view further away taken by Rosettas Osiris camera. Its me… landing on a comet and feeling good!, Philae tweeted

Reflection: Astronomer Klim Ivanovych Churyumov, who discovered the comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 1969, reacts after the successful landing of the Philae lander on the comet

Immediately after the image was released, Philae tweeted: Its me…landing on a comet and feeling good!.

The separation of Philae from Rosetta was confirmed at 9.03am GMT today, and just after 11am GMT mission control in Darmstadt, Germany received a signal confirming the lander was working.

Throughout the day, the lander has transmitted data and images back to Earth. 

Everything looks really, really good, said Philae lander manager Stephan Ulamec.

However, the success of the mission hung in the balance because Philae has a faulty thruster, which means it may have had to rely solely on harpoons to attach itself to the surface.

Whether or not it was able to make the thruster work in time has yet to be revealed by Esa.  

There are a number of things that could go wrong with the mission. For instance, Rosetta might not release Philae at the right spot if the thrusters are activated at the wrong time. Jets of gas spewing from the comet could also cause problems during the descent. Pictured is an overview of potential problems facing Philae

Tense: Mission director, Paolo Ferri, in the moment he realised the probe had landed on the comet. For me this is a dream come true, he told MailOnline

 
WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE THRUSTER DIDNT WORK?

When Philae touched the surface of the comet it fired harpoons into the surface to keep it anchored there.

To keep it attached to the surface a thruster at the top was mean to push it down as the harpoons fired.

But this morning, the thruster didnt appear to be working.

This meant the lander may have had to rely solely on its harpoons to stay attached to the surface.

The harpoons may have grabbed the surface immediately and kept the lander anchored there.

If they didnt, the force of firing them could send it floating off into space.

Well need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope, said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center ahead of the landing.

The cold thruster would have been used to push Philae closer to the comet.

Without it, Philae would have been forced to rely on its three landing screws and two harpoons to successfully attach itself to the surface.

However, if the thruster was reactivated and all went to plan, at touchdown a landing gear would have absorbed the force of the landing.

Ice screws in the feet and a harpoon system locked to the comets surface and the thruster would have pushed it down into the surface to counteract the impact of the harpoon.

Before Philaes release, Esa said there was no going back.

This is the most difficult landing in space history, like landing a balloon in a city centre on a windy day with your eyes closed, said Matthew Genge, a senior lecturer in Earth and planetary science at Imperial College London. 

At 08.35am GMT the mission control team in Darmstadt, Germany, sent a command to release the Philae probe from Rosettas grip. 

The probe was in free fall for during seven hours of terror, before attempting to land on the icy surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at a site called Agilkia. 

 

 

 

Well need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope, said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, ahead of the landing.

Speaking to Astronomy Now, Head of Mission Operations Paolo Ferri said they had received both positive and negative readings from the thruster.

We dont know whether the motor is working or not. We have inconsistent readings, he said at the time.

 

This picture from mission control shows the team preparing to receive confirmation from the Philae lander that it had separated from Rosetta earlier this morning

This graphic details how the Philae lander will touchdown on the surface of comet 67P. Without its cold thruster on top, however, the landing was due to be even more risky than thought

The Philae lander was on its way to the comet (illustration shown). Throughout the day images from both Philae and Rosetta were returned to Earth

TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO SPACECRAFT HAS GONE BEFORE 

William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk in the TV series Star Trek, has wished the Rosetta team good luck ahead of the landing attempt in a video recorded by himself.

Good luck Rosetta, Philaes gonna land, he says in the video.

I am so excited and I wish you such good luck.

Good wishes from all of us here in Los Angeles.

Shatner posted the video to his Twitter page, to which Esa responded: Thank you captain!

While the 83-year-old is known around the world as Captain Kirk from the fictional show Star Trek, he is also a big proponent of real space exploration. 

In the past he has spoken with Nasa and Esa on Twitter, occasionally checking in to see how the agencies are doing.

Back in August he tweeted: How is @NASA doing today?

Nasa responded: @WilliamShatner Good day, Captain. #ISS is in standard orbit and Commander Swanson has the conn. Hope youre having a great weekend!

To which Shatner replied: @NASA Very good news!

Shatner played Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series but also reprised his role elsewhere including in seven movies.

Shatner is pictured left in his 20-second-long video wishing the Rosetta team good luck, and right in Star Trek: The Original Series back in 1967. Since taking on the role, he has shown a keen interest in space

The team in Darmstadt, Germany, are pictured here celebrating as news of Philaes separation from Rosetta was received earlier this morning. Since then, the probe has landed and scientists around the world celebrate

TIMELINE OF THE LANDING 

Time is when confirmation on Earth will be received.  All times in GMT

0903 - Philae will separate from the main Rosetta spacecraft.

0904 - First farewell images received from Philae of Rosetta.

0912 - Philae will be 100 metres from Rosetta.

0943 - Loss of signal expected due to manoeuvre of spacecraft.

1053 - Signal link re-stablished.

1458 - Philaes harpoon anchor system will be turned on.

1501 - Images of landing site will be taken.

1517 - Final pre-touchdown operations.

1522 - Start of landers touchdown window.

1602 - Expected time of landing on the surface.

1607 - First images of the surface sent back to Earth.

Philaes cold thruster is nitrogen-powered and is designed to fire on landing in order to prevent the probe from flying off into space due to the comets weak gravity.

In order to prepare cold-gas jets, scientists use one of two pins to puncture a wax seal on the thrusters gas tank.

Experts detect success by the change in pressure in the piping system.

However, this morning mission controllers did not see pressure increases after two attempts with each of the two pins.

But according to the industry provider, there may still be a chance that retrying the puncture of the wax seal would succeed, even after four failed attempts. 

The comet is currently 300 million miles away (480 million km), and is travelling through space at about 34,000 mph (55,000 km/h).

Yesterday flight managers gave their OK to the first of four checks that must be carried out before the probe Philae can descend from its orbiter craft onto a comet in deep space this afternoon. 

Space adventure: The probe will analyse various components of the comets surface (diagram pictured)

 
WHY DOES COMET 67P LOOK LIKE A DOUBLE COMET? 

When comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was first imaged, scientists were shocked that it seemed to have two sections.

It appeared to have a smaller and a larger lobe, which earned it the nickname rubber duck comet owing to its appearance.

Scientists arent quite sure why it has this odd shape, but it may be the result of something known as a contact binary.

This occurs when two comets come into contact at very low velocity before slowly melding together over many years.

This would mean comet 67P was actually once two comets.

Or it may have just been a single comet that was pulled into an odd shape by the gravitational pull of large bodies like Jupiter and the sun.

Alternatively it could have been shaped in such a way by ice evaporation on its surface or an impact with another object.

Esa also revealed this new image showing how the comet would dwarf London

Flying into the unknown: Pictured is one of Rosettas two massive solar wings, which have kept Esas comet-chaser powered out in the cold depths of space

This morning it was revealed that the cold thruster - a nitrogen thruster - on top of the Philae lander was not working properly. This meant the Philae lander relied solely on its screws and harpoons (illustration shown) to ensure it did not bounce off the surface of the comet

This is an artists impression Philae, showing how it made its way to the surface of the comet today

Pictured is a separate Esa Rosetta control team in Toulouse, France awaiting news of the separation

Anxious: Scientists (mission controller Paolo Ferri pictured in foreground) faced a gruelling seven-hour wait to discover if the Philae probe had managed to safely land on the comet it has chased for 10 years

Esa has now successfully made contact with the Philae lander after it separated from the Rosetta spacecraft this morning at 08.35am GMT. It is now heading towards the comet and is expected to attempt to land on the surface at 4pm GMT. Pictured right is Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations, celebrating making contact

The checklist was preceded by a brief moment of worry when Philae took a bit longer than expected to be activated, said Paolo Ferri, mission leader at Darmstadt.

We were a bit worried at first that the temperature would be wrong (for the descent) but it all worked out. We didnt lose any time, Ferri said.

No one has ever attempted such a daring feat, and even Esa engineers admit they initially thought it sounded more like science fiction.

Scientists hope that Rosetta and Philae could help unravel secrets of how the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

WHAT IS A COMET? 

Comets are remnants of the early solar system that remain in orbit around the sun.

Most are found in two specific regions of the solar system. The first region is the Kuiper belt, just beyond the orbit of Neptune, which is thought to contain about 200 million objects.

Much further out, extending to 50,000 times the distance from Earth to the sun, is a vast region known as the Oort Cloud where hundreds of millions of comets are present.

Comet are often called dirty snowballs because they are made of ice and rock. At their core they have a solid nucleus.

But as they approach the sun, the ice on their surface melts and a coma of gas forms around the comet.

They also have two main tails. The dust tail is made of small, solid particles that are pushed back from the sun.

The gas tail, meanwhile, forms behind the comet from the melted ice on its surface.

A third tail known as a sodium tail has been detected around some comets, but less is known of it.

Rosetta has also been aiming to work out the plasma characteristics of the comet (illustrated)

At 0835am GMT the team in Darmstadt, Germany (picture from mission control shown) sent a command to release the Philae probe from Rosettas grip

WHAT IS THE MIDAS INSTRUMENT? 

The Midas instrument on Philae is designed to study the dust particles flung from the comet

Midas is the Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System. It is designed to study the dust particles flung from the comet as it is heated by the sun and becomes active.

When comets pass through the inner solar system, the ices buried below their dark surface are gradually heated. As this gas streams away from the comets surface, it drags along dust particles – themselves tiny pieces of rock, ice and organic material.

Sunlight reflected from billions of such particles result in the beautiful dust tails seen from Earth on particle population, size, volume and shape.

Midas is one of several instruments that will study cometary dust. To collect particles Midas has a funnel, which usually points towards the comet.

Behind this is a wheel with sticky targets mounted around its circumference. After dust has been collected, the wheel is rotated to move the dust to the microscope for analysis.

By scanning over the dust grain, line by line, scientists can build a 3D picture. Knowing the size, shape and structure of these particles tells us about how and where these particles formed.

These particles are remnants of when the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago and could reveal how planets formed, and perhaps on life came to be on Earth.

Engineers at Rosetta mission control have made history by landing the Philae probe on comet 67P. Pictured is an artists impression

WHY ARE COMETS IMPORTANT? 

Comets are of great interest to scientists because they are the oldest and most primitive bodies in the solar system that we know of.

They preserve the earliest record of material from the nebula from which our sun and planets formed.

While the planets in the solar system have gone through chemical transformations, comets have remained almost unchanged in the 4.5 billion year history of the solar system.

It is also thought that they brought certain elements to planets, including water.

They also carry complex organic molecules that may triggered life on Earth.

Emotions at mission control were running high ahead of the landing. This, for me, is a wonderful dream come true, Paolo Ferri, mission director told MailOnline. Just thinking about it…I have tears in my eyes.

You spend a lot of your time in very odd situations with [Rosetta], working weekends, and getting calls in the middle of the night. Its not fair to compare it to a relationship with a human, but its very close. 

When it was launched in 2004, Rosetta was so far from 67P that it had to pass Earth three times and Mars once, so that it could use the planets gravity to slingshot its way deep into the solar system. 

The spacecraft will spend more than a year studying the comet, which is made up of material left over from when our solar system was first created 4.5 billion years ago.

Ahead of the landing, Esa has published a series beauty shots, taken by Rosettas navigation camera, revealing the varied and dramatic terrain of the mysterious rock.

TOUCHDOWN ON THE COMET: PHILAES DETAILED LANDING TIMELINE 

Rosetta will release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET on 12 November at a distance. Pictured is an artists impression of the lander on Comet 67P

Rosetta released Philae at08:35 GMT/09:35 CET on 12 November at a distance of  14 miles (22.5km) from the centre of the comet.

The landing took place about seven hours later at around 15:30 GMT/16:30 CET.

During the descent, Philae took images and conducted science experiments, sampling the dust, gas and plasma environment close to the comet.

It also took a farewell image of the Rosetta orbiter shortly after separation.

Philae is due to take a panorama of its surroundings. Again, this is expected back on Earth several hours later. 

Longer-term study of the comet by Philae will depend on for how long and how well the batteries are able to recharge, which is related to the amount of dust that settles on its solar panels.

It is expected that by March 2015, as the comet moves closer in its orbit towards the sun, temperatures inside the lander will have reached levels too high to continue operations, and Philaes science mission will come to an end.

But the Rosetta orbiters mission will continue for much longer. It will accompany the comet as it grows in activity until their closest approach to the sun in August 2015 and then as they head back towards the outer solar system. 

Rosettas target comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, is about 2.48 miles (4km) wide. Here it is shown alongside some of Earths landmark

Illustrated here are the various scientific instruments on the Philae lander that will be used to study the comet when it is attached to the surface

Rosetta has chased comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko through space for more than ten years in what has been described as the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever (illustration of solar system shown) 

The images shows a raised plateau on the larger lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It was captured from a distance of 6 miles (9.8 km) from the center of the comet

The mission began as a concept about three decades ago and was the brainchild of Gerhard Schwehm, former Rosetta Project Scientist (pictured in the 1980s)

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Rosetta might not release Philae at the right spot if the thrusters are activated at the wrong time.

Jets of gas spewing from the comet could also cause problems during the descent, moving Philae off course.

Another concern is the strange duck-shape of the comet, that means Philae could crash on landing, damaging its instruments.

And even if Philae lands safely, it will need to attach itself to the comet using harpoons so that it does not fly off into space. 

Philae could also become too hot to operate as the comet travels towards the sun. Scientists say it will be able to withstand temperatures of 150°C.  

Incredibly, many of the images were taken at less than six miles (10km) from the comets surface, and highlight what a challenging task Philae engineers have ahead of them.

The Philae probe aims to analyse the comet in more detail than Rosetta ever could. The results, Esa claims, could completely rewrite the history of how the Earth formed.

As Philae descends, it will be travelling at walking speed of 3ft (one metre) per second relative to 67P while the duck-shaped rock is rotating constantly.

Philae will need to be released with pinpoint accuracy as its landing site contains a mix of sheer cliffs and deep craters – any of which could scupper its chances.

Scientists are aiming to land on a spot named Agilkia on the smaller head lobe of 67P after Philae is released from a distance of 14 miles (22.5km) from the centre of 67P.

Rosetta has been taking scientific readings of the comet since it arrived, including measurements of the magnesium on the surface (shown)

The daring descent Philae (artists impression shown) will take seven hours from separation. It will be exactly nine years that a similar landing attempt on an asteroid by Japans Hayabusa failed in 2005

This image shows the Agilkia landing site on Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko, taken with Rosettas navigation camera on 6 November. It was captured at a distance of 22 miles (35.5km) 

For instance, Rosetta might not release Philae at the right spot if the thrusters are activated at the wrong time.

Jets of gas spewing from the comet could also cause problems during, moving Philae off course.

Another concern is the strange duck-shape of the comet, which means Philae could crash land, damaging its instruments.  

ESAS BIZARRE SUPERSTITIONS

During the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, space engineers underwent what they described as seven minutes of terror.

In that time, bottles of peanuts started to appear, and people mission control calmed their nerves by munching on the snack.

Now, whenever a difficult space mission is taking place, both Nasa and Esa have peanuts to hand to make sure the mission doesnt fail.

Paolo Ferri, mission director for Rosetta, says he will also be wearing the same tie that he did during the launch of Rosetta ten years ago.

It appears at all these moments, he told MailOnline. So it was there for the flyby of Mars, it was there at the wake up, and it will be there at the 12th of November for Philae. Im very superstitious.

And even if Philae lands safely, it will need to attach itself to the comet using harpoons.

Philae is able to withstand temperatures of 150°C (300°F), but it could become too hot to operate as the comet travels towards the sun.

But if it all goes to plan, it could trigger more mission to comets in the future. 

The other scientific instruments are collecting a huge amount of data and Im sure theyll provide to the scientific community a humongous richness, Pellon-Bailon said.

At the moment, communication between Rosetta and mission control take 28 minutes and 20 seconds each way – the time it takes for a signal to travel 315 million miles (510 million km) to Earth.

Its difficult, in the sense that you are commanding something and you are seeing the effects almost one hour later, says Pellon-Bailon. If we land on the comet, it will be very emotional.

Ferris biggest fear isnt that Philae will be damaged during the descent, but that it could fail to send a signal back at all.

This would be a huge disappointment, he says. Of course, the landing mission would be off, but also we wouldnt have learned why. 

The landing has been described by Esa as ridiculously difficult.

Imagine the comet as Mont Blanc, says Ferri. 

You fly with an aircraft at 13.6 miles (22km) in altitude - so twice the altitude of a normal airline. 

At a certain point you have to drop a box and hope that it lands on the mountain within a square km.

Pellon-Bailon says his team are fully prepared, even down to what they will eat on the day.

 

The comet is named after astronomers Klim Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko who identified it in 1969.

It is believed to originate from the Kuiper Belt, a large reservoir of small icy bodies located just beyond Neptune. 

Scientists describe it as a Jupiter class comet which takes 6.45 years to complete one full circuit of the sun

The icy core, or nucleus, is about 2.4 miles (4km) across and the comet takes around 12.4 hours to rotate fully.

The comet has now been observed from Earth on seven approaches to the Sun: in 1969, 1976, 1982, 1989, 1996, 2002 and 2009.

Over an entire year, as it approaches the sun, Rosetta will orbit the comet, mapping its surface and studying changes in its activity.

As its ices evaporate, instruments on board the orbiter will study the dust and gas particles that surround the comet and trail behind it

 

Peanuts are crucial. We found out that people at Nasa eat peanuts on the day of the special activity. In a mission that is problematic, they will always have peanuts on the table. 

Esa has inherited the superstition, and Ferri confirms that its vital to the success of the mission. Ill also be wearing the same tie I wore when Rosetta launched ten years ago, he says. 

The bizarre rituals at mission control are hoped to steady nerves as engineers perform complex manoeuvres around the comet. 

Pellon-Bailon says when he first got involved in the mission in the early 1990s, it sounded to him like science fiction. Even now, he cant quite believe theyve reached the comet. 

That signal is picked up in Australia, and now Im looking at it. Then I think, how is it possible?

But it has been possible, and even if Philae doesnt make it on tomorrow, the mission has already achieved its main objective.

You have to remember, and we have to remember, this landing is spectacular, but it is only one part of the mission, says Ferri.

Whatever happens, data from Rosetta has already rewritten the history of our solar system.  

Rosetta took an incredible selfie of its 131ft (40 metre) solar wings gleaming against the darkness of space. In the background is the comet, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with its head and body clearly visible

The reconstructed-colour image, taken early October, indicates how dark the comet appears. On the average, the comets surface reflects about four per cent of impinging visible light, making it as dark as coal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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