back to article Kamikaze Rosetta probe to ram comet it's chased for billions of miles

The European Space Agency's Rosetta space probe will continue to study Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko until September 2016 – after which the craft will be sent crashing into the mysterious rock. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko The latest image of the comet from Rosetta The Rosetta mission is at least a decade-old, and it …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and later we will have to try and determine where on the surface we can have a touchdown"

    ...which didn't work out too well with Philae, though that may have turned out for the best.

    However, even thinking about working out the best place for an impact not part of the original mission plan, long after the mission was supposed to have ended, rather a long way from Earth...rocket science really ought to get more public attention, because it's come an awfully long way from Lunar landings.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: "and later we will have to try and determine where on the surface we can have a touchdown"

      And then in the distant future, in a solar system far, far way, maybe another NASA will send another probe to a passing comet, and find Philae and what's left of Rosetta. I'd love to see the reaction to those pictures.

      1. John Hughes

        Re: "and later we will have to try and determine where on the surface we can have a touchdown"

        Another NASA?

        Another ESA, surely.

      2. Anonymous John

        Re: "and later we will have to try and determine where on the surface we can have a touchdown"

        Or aliens rebuild and return it. And Captain Kirk has R'tta to deal with 200 years from now.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. cray74

    NEAR Shoemaker

    NEAR-Shoemaker demonstrated that a comet landing by a space probe (vs. a dedicated lander) was possible and useful data could follow. I wonder if Rosetta will return data after landing.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: NEAR Shoemaker

      To judge from the bouncy-bouncy problems with the Philae lander, it may not be a very hard landing.

  3. Roq D. Kasba

    Next time around

    Be nice to think we're still here, and send up a rescue probe to bring the plucky adventurers safely home!

  4. Winston Smith
    Thumb Up

    "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

    If you were about to smash a spacecraft into a comet, how would *you* say it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

      Devil's advocate thought

      But if the crash down causes a trajectory change and it heads earthwards!!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

        "But if the crash down causes a trajectory change and it heads earthwards!!!!"

        Have you considered just how unlikely that is?

        The comet's orbit is outside the Earth's orbit at perihelion. So you would need to add significant delta-v to get Rosetta to cross the Earth's orbit. The crash won't do that. I have just given up trying to calculate the chance of Rosetta hitting the Earth if you managed to create a sufficiently big deflection with the amount of fuel that's left, but it is definitely well under 1 in 10000. And then of course there is the direction of impact and the time in atmosphere to determine whether or not it is going to burn up. Rosetta doesn't have a RTG, so no worries there.

        Or in simpler language, it's a very long way away travelling in the wrong direction and there are a lot of far more important things to worry about.

        1. Esme

          Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

          I think they were thinking in terms of the comet impacting Earth, which is, of course, even more unlikely (as near impossible as makes no difference) , as Rosetta just doesn't have the mass to significantly alter the comet's trajectory. And IMo you;re being unduly pessimistic - I wouldn't give Rosetta any effective chance at all from impacting Earth following its impacting the comet.

        2. Toastan Buttar

          "Well under 1 in 10000"

          Huh, the chances of anything coming from Mars1 were a million to one, they said.

          ....but still he came.

        3. PatientOne

          Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

          "Have you considered just how unlikely that is?"

          As long as it's not 1:1 000 000 we'll be okay.

          if it is... best head for cover!

          1. Benchops

            This is another great chance

            for practical reverse-astrology to change our future.

      2. iLuddite
        Facepalm

        Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

        "Devil's advocate thought"

        You know you just founded another 'doomy' cult? Now there will be end-of-the-world, don't-touch-the-comet protests;(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

          > You know you just founded another 'doomy' cult? Now there will be end-of-the-world, don't-touch-the-comet protests;(

          Have you considered that if all the innumerates are worrying about this then they might be less of a pain in the arse elsewhere?

          1. Grikath

            Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

            Hmmm... some napkin calculations tell me that the difference in mass between the orbiter and the comet would be in the region of several times 1*10^9 even if the comet manages to shed an insane amount of mass during this flyby.

            Somehow I don't think the comet's trajectory would be significantly altered if the orbiter is crashed into it, unless the boffins at ESA figure out a way to get it upt to an appreciable fraction of c.

      3. Winston Smith
        Mushroom

        Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

        > But if the crash down causes a trajectory change and it heads earthwards!!!!

        That's still pretty damn fantastic FOR SCIENCE. But for *us*, not so much.

        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ForScience

    2. Dave Bell

      Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

      I think Jebediah Kerbal has the right attitude: "MOAR Boosters!"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Roger Dean is back

    I could swear I saw this same image on an SF magazine cover long ago, or maybe it was a Yes album.

  6. JustNiz

    67P has an orbital period of about 6.75 years. It will be REALLY cool if Philae wakes up again in 2022.

    Of course by then there won't be anything left here for it to talk to, other than some dudes with mohawks driving crazy cars through the post-apocalyptic desert.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      It would be REALLY cool, I agree. But even if we do survive the mohawkalypse we won't know if Philae wakes up because we'll have splattered repeater Rosetta. D'oh.

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: we'll have splattered repeater Rosetta. D'oh.

        There's little choice - Rosetta isn't in an orbit, the comet doesn't have enough gravity - Rosetta is being flown around the comet in arcs (IIRC). A gentle touchdown would at least keep Rosetta on the comet, but than a high-speed crash would be more totally awesome!

        I'm not sure from this reporting what sort of `landing' will be attempted. I suspect, from the Philae attempt, it'd be a bit of a lottery anyway.

      2. AbelSoul
        Thumb Up

        @Martin Budden

        +1 for raising a smile with the use of the word "mohawkalypse"

        That is all.

  7. DiViDeD Silver badge

    Optional Title

    Well our trajectory .. thingie .. calls for us to errr crash on it, you see. There was a jolly good reason for it at the time. Can't seem to remember what it was now though....

  8. Youngone
    Megaphone

    Boffin

    TFA has "scientist" in it several times. The correct term is boffin.

    That is all.

  9. HighHo

    Disappointed reg links Matt Taylor to the shirt article, shame on you!

  10. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Facepalm

    In other news, we just found life on Mars!

    Oops, that comet we just redirected crushed it...

  11. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A Mythbusters ending!

    Crash or blow some stuff up.

    I approve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Mythbusters ending!

      "A Mythbusters ending! "

      Or just a form of cosmic litter dropping by people who should know better.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: A Mythbusters ending!

      One of the symptoms of that show hurtling downhill was exactly the increasingly gratuitous shooting and/or blowing up of random stuff; unfortunately they seem to have stopped caring about anything else, so I stopped caring for the show. The ADHD generation can have it all to themselves.

  12. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Shame

    I liked the idea of having Rosetta in a parking orbit. Firstly because of the mental image of it flying off through the solar system. Secondly, it would be interesting to see if it returned intact. It may not be functioning but it would be a memorial to human ingenuity. Being made of metal I wonder if it could be detected by radar from Earth.

    1. cray74

      Re: Shame

      "I liked the idea of having Rosetta in a parking orbit. "

      As I understand it, there isn't a stable parking orbit around the comet. It's too lumpy and too small. Rosetta's sort of been following its solar orbit rather than really orbiting the comet. And what orbiting occurs does so with constant course corrections.

  13. frank ly

    Rosetta is cool?

    "Had the lander touched down where it was supposed to, it would have been cooked by now by the Sun ..."

    Why isn't Roesetta being cooked right now and how will it stay cool enough during the closest approach to the Sun?

    1. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: Rosetta is cool?

      umm, cos it isn't directly attached to one of the hot bits of a huge comet shaped heatsink/radiator?

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Rosetta is cool?

      @ Why isn't Roesetta being cooked right now and how will it stay cool enough during the closest approach to the Sun?

      Because it's spending much of it's time in the shade, and "it's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere"

      How long it will survive is an unknown...

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Rosetta is cool?

      Because Rosetta is the ORBITER and designed to stay prolonged periods in the sun. The LANDER, Philae, was not designed to handle direct continues exposure to the sun for extended periods of time.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: Rosetta is cool?

        TFA said "it's possible Philae will still be operational to send back data on what happens to the comet's surface when it gets really hot"

        and a self-styled idiot wrote: "Philae was not designed to handle direct [continuous] exposure to the sun for extended periods of time"

        I still don't get this. Perihelion of the comet is *outside* the orbit of the Earth and the Moon. How hot can Philae get? I never heard that exposure to the Sun on the surface of the Moon was a problem for the Apollo missions (although come to think of it there was a lot of crinkly golden Mylar involved...). As for Philae not being designed for sitting in the sunshine, I should think that was sine qua non for a solar-powered device...

        In any case, I'm glad that the mission has been extended, and I'm looking forward to all the science data being written up in due course.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Rosetta is cool?

          "How hot can Philae get?"

          I dunno, but prolonged direct exposure to the sun with no intervening atmosphere means it can get very hot. As you mentioned, the lunar lander had a lot of gold "turkey foil" to reflect the suns rays and keep essential bits cooler. There's also the problem of dumping excess heat when the only method is radiation, again down to that inconvenient lack of atmosphere.

          Then again, "hot" is relative. Boiling water (approx max. temp of the lunar surface) is only 63oC higher than our body temperature but it bloody hurts when you spill a fresh cup of tea down your pants! In space, stay in the shade and heat radiation means you'll eventually cool down to the background level of near absolute zero.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Flame

            Re: Rosetta is cool?

            but it bloody hurts when you spill a fresh cup of tea down your pants!

            In space, no one can hear you steam...

          2. PNGuinn
            Flame

            Re: Rosetta is cool?

            "In space, stay in the shade and heat radiation means you'll eventually cool down to the background level of near absolute zero."

            Which is why you NEED that nice warm cup of tea. Only an idiot would pour it down his / her pants.

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Rosetta is cool?

          The problem for philae being in the sun is that it has nowhere to dump the heat. On the lunar missions they could deploy radiator panels on the shaded side or underside that were not exposed to sunlight (and where thus in the cold) and they could deflect a lot of heat to space. On top of that lunar rigolith is a VERY reflective material and thus stays relatively cool. Philae is only a tiny little probe with a very small shadow so nowhere to dump a lot of heat. It's sitting on a black/gray lump that is catching heat from the sun very well. Philae WAS designed to sit in the sun and roast all day, but at some point there is only so much you can do to stave off heat-stroke.

  14. People's Poet

    Will no one think of the Clangers!

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