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19 November 2014

The ROSETTA Mission that landed a 220lb probe, the Philae, on Comet Churyumov Gerasimenko was a remarkable engineering and technological feat by the ESA. It has been in the planning stage for many years and this may account for the surprise when the probe bounced up and down at point of contact. The surface was much harder than expected – in spite of all the dust.

Hence, if nothing else, ROSETTA will change the consensus. No one can now argue comets are fluffy snow balls – but that was not all the probe has relayed back from the surface. It has sniffed the atmospheric gases, drilled a core from the surface, took the temperature at the surface, and has explored the chemical composition of the comet. One of the major goals of the exercise was to find out if comets could have seeded the Earth with the building blocks of Life. We shall have to wait some time for the data to be analysed fully and the subsequent write-ups.

Meanwhile, the battery ran down after 60 hours and so far the solar panels have not kicked in to recharge them. Mission engineers are confident the batteries will come to life as the comet gets closer to the Sun. It is over 3 million miles away from the Earth at present.

See variously the love-in at http://phys.org/print335532143.html, http://phys.org/print335520277.html, http://phys.org/print335416293.html, http://phys.org/print335450208.html and http://phys.org/print335416105.html

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