In an interesting turn of events, scientists at the European Space Agency are having a difficult time determining the perfect landing spot for Rosetta‘s probe, Philae. An earlier update from the agency at the beginning of the month had revealed that 5 landing spots had been shortlisted from the the probable list of 10 chosen first.
Image source: www.dailymail.co.uk
But further analysis of these sites has shown that none of them seem safe enough for Philae to land. Rosetta has been returning high resolution images of these probable sites of landing and the comet 67P seems to have layered cliffs along most of the landing sites that have been identified so far. Philae needs a landing strip close to 1 km long and hitting one of the layered cliffs might end its mission prematurely.
The comet’s duck shaped body does not make life easier as well. There is sufficient landing space on some other sites on the comet but due to their location, they do not have access to sunlight which means that batteries on the probe will not be recharged sufficiently to last its four month mission.
ESA still has time to find a suitable landing site before its schedule landing of Philae on the comet in November. However, the flight plan has to be meticulously planned and uploaded into Philae before it leaves Rosetta since alteration in trajectory would not be possible during the landing. The landing is expected to be somewhere between 5-8 hours long.
While we continue to scan for updates on this news, do not forget to check our post about the mission that made this possible!