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Comet Landing Spot Selected

September 15th, 2014

Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The primary landing site was chosen from five candidates during the Landing Site Selection Group meeting held on September 13-14, 2014. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The European Space Agency has picked a spot for the Philae lander touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

According to ESA, Site J offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites.

Site J is on the ‘head’ of the comet. The backup landing zone, Site C, is located on the ‘body’ of the comet.

To be released on November 11 by the Rosetta spacecraft, the 220 pound (100 kg) lander will perform in-depth measurements to characterize the comet nucleus.

Following a decade of travel, ESA’s Rosetta arrived at the comet on August 6. By August 24, using data collected when Rosetta was still about 60 miles (100 km) from the comet, five candidate landing regions had been identified for detailed study.

Since then, the spacecraft has moved to within 19 miles (30 km) of the comet.

Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center said in an ESA press statement: “None of the candidate landing sites met all of the operational criteria at the 100 percent level, but Site J is clearly the best solution.”

What name shall be given to Site J? There’ll be a public naming competition announced soon.

So put on your thinking cap!

By Leonard David