When the Philae lander reaches its landing site on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it needs to be at a level yet scientifically interesting location, with enough sunlight and the right conditions to ensure a long working life. However, the rugged, unusually shaped comet is not making the choice easy for the lander team.
Less than 2000 kilometres separate the ESA orbiter Rosetta and the Philae lander from their destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Images acquired with the OSIRIS camera system already indicate what lies ahead for the orbiter and lander upon arrival: "The surface seems pretty rough. We will have to wait to determine whether the visible depressions are impact craters or structures produced by cometary activity," says Ekkehard Kührt from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). The comet researcher is involved in the acquisition of data by the OSIRIS camera and is also responsible for data analysis. Another image taken by the camera shows that a cloud of dust, the coma, enshrouds the comet. “As we draw closer to Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the other instruments used in the mission will provide us with interesting insights into the interaction between the dust and the surrounding gas.”
Tough, resilient and able to survive in the most inhospitable regions on Earth –now, they are being asked to show their strength in a space environment as well; blue-green algae (cyanobacteria of the genus Nostoc) and biofilms (deinococcus geothermalis) will depart for the International Space Station (ISS) at 23:44 CEST on 23 July 2014 on board a Progress spacecraft.
Comets have irregular and rather potato-like shapes – this is a well-known fact. But the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on which the Philae lander is scheduled to descend in November 2014, has an unexpected shape.
The final exam in Russia has been passed, four and a half years of astronaut training across the globe are complete – and now, less than three weeks remain until the astronaut Alexander Gerst loses the ground under his feet for six months.
In a new radiation receiver developed for solar tower power plants, ceramic particles of around one millimetre in size are heated to 1000 degrees Celsius.
A symbiotic community of bacteria, tomatoes and single-celled algae, synthetic urine and a satellite that simulates the gravity of the Moon or Mars by rotating around its axis – these elements make up the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und- Raumfahrt; DLR) Eu:CROPIS (Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-Food Production in Space) mission.
More than two and a half years – this is how long the Philae lander has been hibernating while travelling through space on board the European Space Agency ESA Rosetta spacecraft. On 28 March, the lander was successfully reactivated and broke its planned radio silence by sending data to Earth from a distance of about 655 million kilometres.
A rocket launch in March 2004, multiple swing-bys past Earth and Mars, high-speed fly-bys of asteroids Šteins and Lutetia – after all this, the Philae lander on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, which is en route to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is in good shape.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is testing the performance and durability of reflectors and receivers for solar power plants in Ouarzazate, Morocco and in Bokpoort, South Africa.