Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Far Away in Time and Space

It takes a little planning: design a spacecraft and attached lander which will travel 4 billion miles in space to a comet 2.5 miles across, 4.5 billlion years old, moving at 40,000 miles per hour. Plan on a 9 year trip to reach the comet from earth launch.

This is the comet orbiting the sun in a large elliptical path.  The Rosetta craft with its lander Philae reached the comet and launched the lander to the comet on November 11, 2014 by the European Space Agency at Darmstadt Germany.

Lander Philae took 7 hours to drop 14 miles to the comet surface.  The 220 pound lander weighed as much as a piece of paper due to the small gravity of the comet. Philae bounced thrice because devices which were to secure it to the surface failed to deploy.  First bounce took two hours to hit the surface again. Upon final bounce, the lander ended up in a partially shaded area which prevented solar panels from charging the battery system..  But it was able to complete about 80% of scientific tests (including finding carbon in the atmosphere) before the batteries ran down.  It may be a wait until spring before the lander is oriented such that the sun will reach the charging panels and re- invigorate Philae.  For sure when it nears our sun there should be sufficient light to recharge and continue testing and research on the comet.

These are the experiments that the lander is equipped with :

Lander Instrumentation

 First photo from the comet's surface.  One lander leg is visible sticking up since Philae landed on the other two legs in a shadowy place.  It was still able to perform experiments and relay the results to Rosetta, then a 30 minute trip to earth with the data.

 Mockup of what lander should have looked like upon landing.

Orbiting Rosetta

The equations for elliptical orbits  are fairly basic, even including the mass of the orbiting objects.  But to "slingshot" that object around earth, mars, and the sun, in order to build up the velocity necessary to reach an object 4 billion miles out in 9 years amazes me.  Bravo . . .


  1. My hat is off for the guys and gals at the ESA! Awesome job!

  2. I hope it all does work out well for them....all that blood, sweat and tears...they deserve a win!

  3. I am glad we are doing some new exploring of space... Hopefully we will get to Mars before I die--as a kid in elementary school I remember the excitement of the Apollo program.

  4. What would our ancestors have thought about this space exploring of our days if they would have had any chance to even predict something near to happen. Probably they would have fainted. I really like your writing and the subjects you choose every time. Less is more. Interesting and makes my head spinning of all the thoughts that might have happened or not... Take care...:)

  5. I love space and space travel, as they provide me with a mental stimulation that is somehow the most refreshing and peaceful form of thought. Truly loves these images, this post.

  6. I enjoyed this post!
    Hope you are well
    Happy Holidays :)

  7. Interesting, thanks for sharing!

  8. wow ..its a lot of work..was put in must be disappointing that this all went against what was planned ..and the long wait to for the sun to recharge ..hope it will work

  9. all is well on my side ..did I ask if you have an instagram page ..if so would like to follow you

  10. I needed that boost of almost-sci-fi after the day I've had. Good dropping around at yours, as always.