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Historic Landing Timeline: Crosshairs on a Comet

November 7th, 2014

Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is set to deploy its Philae lander for a first-time touchdown on a comet.

On November 11-12, Philae is set to separate from Rosetta at 09:03 GMT (10:03 CET) and touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 16:02 GMT (17:02 CET).

A timeline of the most crucial activities related to separation, descent and landing has been scripted by ESA. But be aware that many of these times are subject to change and confirmation, “given the extremely dynamic nature of this delicate and complex operation,” according to an ESA statement.

Landing site

The site where Rosetta’s Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12 now has a name: Agilkia.

The landing site, previously known as “Site J”, is named for Agilkia Island, an island on the Nile River in the south of Egypt. A complex of Ancient Egyptian buildings, including the famous Temple of Isis, was moved to Agilkia from the island of Philae when the latter was flooded during the building of the Aswan dams last century.

The name was selected by a jury comprising members of the Philae Lander Steering Committee as part of a public competition run October 16-22 by ESA and the German, French and Italian space agencies.

Rosetta was launched in 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 6, 2014. It is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA.

To keep an eye on the attempted comet landing, go to:

http://rosetta.esa.int/

By Leonard David