As the Rosetta Spacecraft nears comet 67P, it continues to “snap away” and return its photos to earth. While the photos received are similar to the ones it was taking last month, this one is from a mere 16 kilometers away from its target. The photo shows a smidgen of spacecraft while its solar wings are dominant in the forefront of the “selfie.”
The European Space Agency plans to jettison its Philae lander on November 12 in the hopes of landing on the comet’s surface of space ice. It is the agency’s hope that the slight gravitational pull of the 4km-wide comet is sufficient to pull the robot lander to a successful landing about seven hours after it is released.
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Rosetta Spacecraft: Landing sites
The agency’s hope is that the Philae lander finds its way to the “head” of the duck, that is presently being called “Site J” where the terrain is reasonable flat and in theory would make for a soft landing. A group is meeting today to finalize the landing site, though the prevailing opinion is that “Site J” has already been chosen.
However, as Rosetta nears the comet its possible that it will identify something in or around “Site J” that would force the Philae to an alternate location dubbed “Site C” on the body of the duck.
If accomplished it would truly be a marvel in engineering, to reach a comet 480 million kilometers from Earth and then land on it is not the easiest thing in the space to achieve.
The photos received and the most recent “selfie” that were taken on Oct. 7, represent the last images that the CIVA camera will take from Rosetta before it joins the lander for a hoped-for 360 degree panoramic image following the landing.
“Parting won’t be sweet sorrow” if the landing is successful. Philae has been riding piggyback on the Rosetta Spacecraft for the last 10 years as it chased the comet.