We Are About to Land on a Comet!

Back in July, I posted a blog about Rosetta.  This amazing project will attempt to land a probe on the surface of a comet for the first time.

More than 10 years after launch, the historic landing will hopefully occur tomorrow on November 12.  At approximately 9:03 AM GMT (1:03 AM Pacific Time), the probe Philae is scheduled to separate from Rosetta and begin its seven-hour descent.  At approximately 16:00 PM GMT (8:00 AM Pacific Time), the probe is scheduled to touch down on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

These are the times when the confirmation signals are expected on Earth.  All times are approximate; actual times may vary considerably.  The European Space Agency recommends that you consult the Rosetta blog and social media for ongoing coverage and updates (links below).

Once it lands, Philae will begin performing a series of scientific tests and experiments using 10 specially designed instruments.

COSAC (COmetary SAmpling and Composition experiment) will detect and identify complex organic molecules.  This gas analyzer has eight capillary GC columns, including two Agilent columns: an UltiMetal Carbobond (very unique and complicated to make) and CP-Chirasil-DEX CB.  COSAC also uses Agilent Micro GC Thermal Conductivity Detectors.

PTOLEMY is an evolved gas analyzer that can obtain accurate measurements of isotopic ratios of light elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.  This GC/MS system has three Agilent columns: a CP-PoraPLOT Q, a CP-Molsieve 5A and a CP-Sil 8 CB, all in UltiMetal.


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