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back to article Astounding: We're about to stick a probe in orbit of a COMET

The European Space Agency will be on tenterhooks tonight as the Rosetta space probe reaches its final destination and begins the burn sequence that will put a man-made spacecraft in orbit around a comet for the first time. After a much-delayed launch in 2004, Rosetta has spent the last ten years chasing through the solar system …

Slightly speculative indeed

Is it even possible for it to burn out completely? ISON passed, or rather it tried, the sun's surface about twice the radius of the sun itself, and even then we had hopes that it could survive. 67p/Spiff-Zogwarg will be at 1.3 AU at its closest. That is one hundred times further out, which if my basic knowledge of astrophysics is correct, means around one ten thousandth of the radiation.

Regardless, I am quite exited over this. They are going to harpoon a comet. Apart from the Apollo 12 rum incident, how often are harpoons launched in space?

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Re: Slightly speculative indeed

"Apart from the Apollo 12 rum incident, how often are harpoons launched in space?"

I believe you'll find your answer here:- http://xkcd.com/1402/

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Re: I believe you'll find...

Yes, that was the joke, well done...

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Pint

How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

All I know how to say is "Can I get another beer?"

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Re: How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

All I know how to say is "Can I get another beer?"

I think you'll find that should be "May I have another beer, please?"

;-)

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Re: How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

In about 30 different ways!

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Re: How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

All I know how to say is "Can I get another beer?"

I think you'll find that should be "May I have another beer, please?"

Oh no, just go with "Can I get another beer?". Mostly that will work while sometimes prompting very mild offence or minor inaudible tutting. Every so often, hopefully, a barman will respond "Yes, you can" and await your next move.

I can recommend though that you might wish to avoid the utterance an East US work colleague made on her first visit to a London pub. I'd gone to the bar to buy and she'd gone in search of seating. A piercing decibel sundered the quiet buzz "WE CAN SIT RIGHT HERE ON OUR FANNIES"

hushed pause.

"....WHAT?....WHAT!!?"

Divided by a common language.

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Pint

I find "Can I get another beer? (or can i get most anything to counter staff) mildly offensive.

Of course the correct answer at least from bar staff is, no you can't, that's my job. May I get you another beer sir??

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Re: How do you say "AWESOME!!!" in European??

The correct phrase is :-

"Two Beers Please , My friend is paying ..."

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Pint

Have a cold one ESA,

Whether everything goes as planned or whether Murphy bites Rosetta in the buttocks... well done for a magnificent voyage so far. Here's to hoping orbit, landing, and great science can be achieved.

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Anonymous Coward

Quite a feat

From a species that also likes blowing its own kind up!

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What is the orbital period of 67P, and can Rosetta's batteries recharge from zero?

We might need to leave a note for the next intelligent species on this planet to listen out for it.

Could be a premise for a sci-fi story... young civilisation detects coded transmissions from what they thought was a comet and starts preparing to greet the aliens.

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Re: What is the orbital period of 67P, and can Rosetta's batteries recharge from zero?

The orbital period is quite easily googled and is currently six and a half year. I say currently as this is a comet and their orbits are frequently altered by planets they come to close to, with the gas giants being the usual suspects with their large mass and thus large area of influence. This one had it's orbit changed in 1959 by Jupiter, ten years before it was discovered.

As for if the batteries can be recharged from zero. I have no idea on the battery technology, but lots of batteries break if they are depleted. Which is a problem, you have to leave them with enough charge so any depletion done while left idle won't bring them under a certain threshold. I have not managed to find out if this is a problem with Rosetta, but my guess is that temperature is a bigger problem. Keeping key parts warm while out there in the cold for an extended period can be a problem that they have not seen the benefit in engineering around. Cold is what killed Spirit on Mars in the end.

I recommend NASA Eyes if you want a visual of the orbits:

http://eyes.nasa.gov/download.html

Note: The probes we send out decades ago that is heading out of the solar system is driven by thermonuclear power sources and are kept warm that way.

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Mushroom

Re: What is the orbital period of 67P, and can Rosetta's batteries recharge from zero?

Sorry chap not thermonuclear power sources. That would be a bit much! Try radioisotope thermoelectric power source. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator

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Re: What is the orbital period of 67P, and can Rosetta's batteries recharge from zero?

My bad, that is what I meant, just the wrong wørds.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What is the orbital period ...

Unladen? African or Euopean?

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The ultimate ride

If Philae's solar cells and battery can last, will Philae and its instruments survive the outgassing as the comet loops around the sun? What is the planned timescale of observation events? Is it intended that Rosetta will maintain orbit or does the mission have a natural end-point?

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Anonymous Coward

Web coverage

For change the ESA web coverage is not too bad.

There's a timeline with just about every detail you could ask for here...

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Rosetta_timeline_countdown_to_comet_arrival

They even tell you the times in GMT (unlike NASA who make you guess what time zone they're talking about). Also, a live webcast here...

http://www.esa.int/rosetta

And a where is Rosetta now 3D animation thing that's quite entertaining. That's liked from the webcast page.

A blog with photos and animations that I hope will regularly get updated is here...

http://sci.esa.int/rosetta/

Hopefully there'll be a full set of raw images somewhere but I've not found it yet.

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Pint

Did someone just hurl a great big bath duck at the solar system?

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Possibly. Although they seem to have neglected to install a beak. Therefore we need to get the lander in exactly the correct spot to make up for their error.

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says:

More of a Moby Duck.

Hopefully the Philae lander has been programmed to transmit on harpoon impact, "To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee"

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"Rosetta craft screams 6 billion km through space to reach its cosmic prey"

But in space no-one can hear you scream... /pedant

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Re: "Rosetta craft screams 6 billion km through space to reach its cosmic prey"

Ah, but just because no-one can hear you, it doesn't mean you're not screaming!

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Re: "Rosetta craft screams 6 billion km through space to reach its cosmic prey"

Or DOES it? WooooOOOOooooOOOOoooo.....

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Why do they never tell you why?

A massive amount of effort and planning so they can land on a space rock and take samples. Surely the samples will turn out to be the sort of materials you do normally expect to find in rocks? "Yep! It's a rock alright!" Or are they hoping to find something different and exciting?

For the benefit of us non-rock(et)-scientists... why exactly are they doing this?

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Re: Why do they never tell you why?

They don't know. They expected it to be mostly ice and already just recently found out it's not.

Plus just the closeup pictures alone are worth the spacecraft's weight in gold.

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Boffin

Re: Why do they never tell you why?

Science mostly. I am kind of tired to have to defend the value of science, but it is such an important issue that I will have to keep doing it. Science that leads directly to a product or benefit is paid for by itself by people buying these products afterwards. However all of todays technology and scientific breakthroughs are a result of science that had no purpose other than the science in itself, and it is too expensive for any company to embark on so we agreed on that we all chip in. Science is about understanding the universe and it's laws. When we constantly expand on that knowledge we pave way for other people to research the final details and make a use of it.

Claiming that all research has to end up with a result we can immediate use is like being a farmer in the stone age refusing to explore beyond the hills around his valley. Because from where he stands it is clear that hills can't be used to grow his crops and thus anything beyond can not possibly be of any use to him.

I would like it is purely due to science, but it is not. It is also about entertainment of sorts. While some people enjoy sport (which is heavily subsidized), I enjoy pictures taken close up from a big rock we discovered in 1969.

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Devil

orbital changes

Once the lander is down will it stay there? Will this cause differntial heating during the solar fly-by causing jets of gas/vapour to alter its orbit ... and the next time it comes around hit something around these parts, just saying you know

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