GOING ALL THE WAY

Reasons to Land on a Comet: What the Rosetta Mission Can Learn

November 12, 2014

The Agilkia landing site is seen on this image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken with Rosetta’s navigation camera, just days before its lander, Philae, makes its historic descent to the surface

Courtesy European Space Agency

The Agilkia landing site is seen on this image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken with Rosetta’s navigation camera, just days before its lander, Philae, makes its historic descent to the surface

After a journey that took more than a decade, the world is scheduled to witness a first when the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission attempts to land a small spacecraft on the surface of a comet. The attempt will take place on Wednesday, at speeds of about 34,000 miles per hour.

The mission is a potential breakthrough in the study of comets. These chunks of ice and dust are leftovers from the formation of planets, often considered space “icebergs” given their age and distance from the sun. The water that resides in comets is likely the key to sustaining future deep-space missions—a celestial gasoline station, in a sense. Beyond water, comets such as the now-famous 67P are thought to harbor complex organic molecules, some of the ingredients needed for the formation of intelligent life.

“I think that humans have to go into space more and take ownership of the solar system,” says Denton Ebel, chairman of the division of physical sciences at the American Museum of Natural History, calling efforts such as Rosetta “the logical next step” of human space exploration.

There is yet another reason underlying the space agency’s financial and engineering feat: to prove it’s possible. Before attempting to land on the comet, the spacecraft will have whipped around the earth three times, followed by Mars, to obtain the necessary gravitational acceleration to rendezvous with a comet. The Rosetta craft will discharge a 220-pound landing probe, called Philae, to settle in a relatively clear spot only about 1/3-mile square.

“It’s technically one of the most difficult missions ever,” Ebel says. “This mission is amazingly ambitious.”

Other reasons to visit a comet include getting a better understanding of how massive space rocks are constructed, which could prove crucial if future earthlings ever need to intercept and prevent a doomsday scenario. There is also the issue of manned deep-space exploration and using the abundant resources found in comets and asteroids, mainly water and noxious gases but also precious metals. “How is the water locked up in a comet? We don’t really understand that at all,” Ebel says.

Future space explorers will almost certainly need to stop for water en route. Bring water from earth into space costs about $23,000 per pound, according to Planetary Resources, which plans to mine asteroids. The hydrogen and oxygen in water is also the basis for rocket fuel that will be produced in space.

The Rosetta mission was launched in March 2004 and reached Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Aug. 6, where it has been orbiting about 14 miles from the surface. The comet is about 2.5 miles across at its widest point.

Confirmation of the Philae lander’s fate is expected to arrive at about 10:36 a.m. EST at the mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, following a seven-hour descent to the comet. The agency has deployed a full array of social media to chronicle the landing, including collaborating with a futuristic film dramatization starring Game of Thrones actor Aidan Gillan and a soundtrack of the sub-audible magnetic emissions from the comet, sped up so they can be heard. Come Wednesday, there will be tweets.

INDIA AND THE UNITED STATES: SPACE EXPLORATION PARTNERS

Excellent, and I think India would make a superb partner for us to team with in the field of Space Exploration. Their business and corporate environment could use some work (I once tried to unsuccessfully arrange an international licensing agreement there and it failed due to multi-layered corruption and over-regulation), and we should ourselves gravitate more and more towards Private Space Exploration efforts (such as SpaceX), but when it comes to technological innovation and invention India would make the US a very well qualified and excellent partner.

So I look forward to our teaming together, especially in working towards Mars.

To tell you the truth once China finally revolts and becomes a Real and Free Republic I’d like to see them join us and India in joint space-exploration enterprises as well.

India, U.S. Agree to Joint Exploration of Mars

NASA’s Maven beat ISRO’s Mangalyaan to Mars.

Reuters

India’s satellite Mangalyaan has only been orbiting Mars for a week, but already space scientists back on Earth are planning their next mission: this time in tandem with the U.S.

 

On Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration signed an agreement to work with the Indian Space Research Organisation during future explorations of Mars. They also agreed to join forces in observations and scientific analysis from their respective satellites currently orbiting the red planet.

 

Last week, NASA’s Maven satellite entered Mars orbit two days before India’s Mangalyaan. Maven is the first spacecraft to explore the upper atmosphere of Mars, Mangalyaan is studying the surface of the planet to look for evidence of methane among other tasks.

 

India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars and the only country in the world to have done so on its first try.

 

The $74 million venture was far cheaper than comparable voyages and just over a tenth of the cost of NASA’s latest mission to Mars. The success, analysts said, puts India in the big league and promotes it above China and Japan in space exploration. Chinese and Japanese missions to orbit  Mars have so far failed.

 

In 2020, the two space agencies plan to launch the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar,  or NISAR, mission to observe the Earth and measure changes in its land surface.  “Nisar will improve our understanding of key impacts of climate change and advance our knowledge of natural hazards,” NASA said in a statement.

 

For that mission, NASA will provide the L-band synthetic aperture radar, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid state recorder, and a payload data subsystem, the statement said. ISRO will provide the spacecraft bus, an S-band synthetic aperture radar and the launch vehicle, it added.

 

The tie-up between the space agencies “reflects the strong commitment NASA and ISRO have to advancing science and improving life on Earth,” Charles Bolden, NASA administrator said in a statement after he signed the agreement.

NOW YOU’RE GETTING IT…

Shared from my Personal Blog, the Missal.

The future of Space Exploration does not lie with the government, but with entrepreneurship and private corporations like SpaceX.

NASA FINALLY CATCHES UP TO THE 21ST CENTURY

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