ESA announces the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across.
The primary landing site was chosen from five candidates during the Landing Site Selection Group meeting held on 13–14 September 2014.
Rosetta’s lander Philae will target Site J, an intriguing region on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites.
Site J is on the ‘head’ of the comet, an irregular shaped world that is just over 4 km across at its widest point. The decision to select Site J as the primary site was unanimous. The backup, Site C, is located on the ‘body’ of the comet.
The 100 kg lander is planned to reach the surface on 11 November, where it will perform indepth measurements to characterise the nucleus in situ, in a totally unprecedented way.
But choosing a suitable landing site has not been an easy task.
“As we have seen from recent close-up images, the comet is a beautiful but dramatic world – it is scientifically exciting, but its shape makes it operationally challenging,” says Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center.
“None of the candidate landing sites met all of the operational criteria at the 100% level, but Site J is clearly the best solution.”
“We will make the first ever in situ analysis of a comet at this site, giving us an unparalleled insight into the composition, structure and evolution of a comet,” says Jean-Pierre Bibring, a lead lander scientist and principal investigator of the CIVA instrument at the IAS in Orsay, France.
“Site J in particular offers us the chance to analyse pristine material, characterise the properties of the nucleus, and study the processes that drive its activity.”