Feature

Touch and go

Science  01 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6196, pp. 504-505
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6196.504

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Summary

The most daring moment of the Rosetta mission will come on 11 November, when mission leaders plan to drop the Philae lander to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will sample and study fresh cometary material. Whereas landings on the moon or Mars are preceded by years of reconnaissance, Rosetta will have just 6 weeks to map the comet's surface and find a suitable landing site for Philae. To avoid bouncing off the comet in the feeble gravity field, Philae is carrying two harpoons, three whirling screws, and a reverse thruster. The lander is prepared to land on surfaces as tough as ice or as soft as cigarette ash.