The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that its scientists are ready for Wednesday’s attempt to land a spacecraft on a streaking comet for the first time.
Mission controllers in Darmstadt, Germany will see more than a decade’s worth of work come to fruition when they order the unmanned Rosetta space probe to release the Philae lander on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.
The Rosetta spacecraft has flown over 4 billion miles and is currently traveling alongside its target at 41,000 mph.
“The orbiter will remain alongside the comet for over a year, watching it grow in activity as it approaches the Sun, getting to within 180 million kilometers (112 million miles) in summer next year, when the comet will be expelling hundreds of kilograms of material every second,” ESA project scientist Matt Taylor said Tuesday, CNN reported.
If all goes according to plan, the Philae lander will touch down on a site called Agilkia, harpoon itself into the comet’s surface, and send a confirmation signal back to earth. It will then begin performing numerous experiments on Comet67P.
The Rosetta spacecraft launched in 2004. The mission cost $1.64 billion.
“This is science fiction made real in terms of the achievement of the mission itself, but Rosetta is also taking us a step closer to answering science fiction’s grandest question of all — are we alone?” science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds said Wednesday, CNN reported.
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