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Rosetta: 'Save the Date' for Historic Comet Landing [VIDEO]

Sep 26, 2014 03:23 PM EDT
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The European Space Agency (ESA) finally announced the exact date on which its Rosetta comet chasing spacecraft will deploy the Philae lander. The lander will alight onto the surface of a massive comet on November 12, making history as the first manmade vehicle to set down on a comet as it whips through space.

The ESA announcement was made Friday morning, with the space agency being very careful to note while this date is pretty final, the landing site, announced earlier this month, is actually still tentative.

"Final confirmation of the primary landing site and its landing scenario will be made on 14 October after a formal Lander Operations Readiness Review, which will include the results of additional high-resolution analysis of the landing sites," the ESA said.

However, they added that should a backup site (dubbed "Site C") be chosen instead of the currently selected site, landing will still occur on Nov. 12.

In the meantime, the ESA is giving the public an opportunity to name the landing site, which currently boasts the incredibly dull name "Site J." The final name, determined by the public's votes, will be announced along with the landing scenario confirmation on Oct. 14.

As things stand, two landing scenarios are still up for selection, involving both prospective sites. If Philae truly does alight on Site J, it will stay there measuring the vast landscape of the "Rubber Ducky" comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with a suit of 10 scientific instruments crafted in an international effort. (Scroll to read on...)

[Credit:ESA/ATG medialab]

Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR (German Aerospace Center), MPS (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research), CNES (French National Centre for Space Studies), and the ASI (Italian Space Agency).

Rosetta, which has been orbiting 67P since it finally caught up the comet back in August, will stay in orbit for more than a year after Philae lands - just until the comet draws too close to the Sun.

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