Technology & Science

Scientists gear up to land 1st spacecraft on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Scientists at the European Space Agency are making final preparations to land the first spacecraft on a comet next week.

Lander, dubbed Philae, will be released at 3:35 a.m. ET Wednesday

An artist's impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale. (C.Carreau/ESA/The Associated Press)

Scientists at the European Space Agency are making final preparations to land the first spacecraft on a comet next week.

The launch of a small lander from ESA's Rosetta space probe marks one of the key moments in the decade-long mission to examine comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

ESA scientists said Friday that a series of orbital manoeuvres and calculations for the touchdown will take place over the coming days before the lander, dubbed Philae, is released at 3:35 a.m. ET Wednesday.

If all goes according to plan, the 100-kilogram lander will latch onto the comet's icy surface seven hours later.

Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo told reporters he doesn't doubt Philae will land on the comet, but "whether we hit it safely is another matter."

Site J, the location where Philae will aim for, is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. ( ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)