On coming Wednesday history will be made with the successful landing of the Rosetta’s Philae probe on the comet 67P surface, and the world can then sit back to learn a few things about the space body and perhaps how life originated on Earth some 4.6 million years ago.
The European Space Agency’s probe will lower itself to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a 20 km altitude, and it will deploy its screws and harpoons to secure its position at the surface. The Philae is expected to send pictures of its surrounding to Earth after landing, and ESA expects that if all goes according to plan, the operation will turn out to be very beneficial to the whole mankind.
Authorities behind the Rosetta mission landing on comet have reasons to fear for the success of the mission, or for the safe landing and positioning of the space probe. And the reasons for this is not far-fetched: the landscape of comet is full of deep pits and tall ice spires, and there are fissures, cliffs, and steep slopes along the terrains everywhere. This landscape and terrain is giving space authorities the jitters on the probability of the space probe landing safely – on its harpoons and on fair grounds – not a steep slope or cliff where the Philae could topple away into a fissure.
However, the ESA’s team is keeping hopes high, and the mission manager, Fred Jansen states that “we’ve analyzed the comet, we’ve analyzed the terrain, and we’re confident that the risks we have are still in the area of the 75% success ratio that we always felt.” Another leading scientist that worked on the Philae lander expressed hopes that “we realize this is a risky venture. In a sense that is part of the excitement of the whole thing. Exploration is like that: you go into the unknown, you’re unsure of what you’re going to face.”
Although scientists at the European Space Agency’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, are offering handshakes in readiness for a real congratulatory embrace when the lander lands on comet in a few hours to now, the smiles are still brittle out of nervousness for what might happen given the uncertain terrain on comet and some other instruments aboard the space probe.