Ridiculously Difficult


Difficult tasks are daunting – ridiculously difficult is a proposition best left to imagination. Ridiculous is defined as unreasonably absurd or silly notions deserving ridicule – a preposterous suggestion easily dismissed as ludicrous. Fortunately mankind came with an infinite capacity to imagine ridiculously difficult possibilities.

On November 12, the European Space Agency Rosetta Mission will attempt “ridiculously difficult”- how hard could it be to land a probe on the surface of a miniscule chunk of cosmic debris traveling 40 times faster than speeding bullets?

Difficult was born 10 years ago when the ESA imagined ridiculous and launched Rosetta. A robotic probe with ridiculously difficult expectations – meander through the cosmos for 10 years, alternately slingshotting of planetary gravitational pulls, “sleeping”, waking up to take pictures, and finally slowing itself down to mirror the orbit and speed of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. – a infinitesimally minute cosmic speck only a few miles wide.  That in itself was difficult – ridiculous is the morning of Nov. 12 when Rosetta will deploy Philae, a probe expected to land on the surface of  67P at a spot dubbed Agilkia.

Ridiculously difficult might well define humanity. Where or what would we be without the tenacity and vision of absurdly silly dreamers. On November 12, link to the live feed below – witness the possibilities of pursuing ridiculously difficult.

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#.VF82zhZflLM

Pictured below – Philae’s primary landing site, mosaic – courtesy ESA

Philae’s primary landing site – mosaic. Image credit: ESA

Rosetta Mission


In March 2004, the European Space Agency launched Rosetta – the mission, to reach Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by August 2014, deploying a probe (dubbed Philae after an obelisk discovered on an island in the Nile leading to further unraveling of Egyptian writing and the Rosetta Stone) , one destined as the first to  land on a comet surface.

Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko travels around the Sun at approximately 800 million kilometers, on an orbit between Earth and Jupiter. For Rosetta to make the journey, “gravity assists” (momentum from flybys of Mars in 2007, and Earth in 2005, 2007 and 2009) explain the 10 years and over 6 billion kilometers Rosetta travels before reaching her destination.

Recently woken from a 31 month slumber, Rosetta sent extraordinary pictures on July 14 indicating the comet might be a binary system (one with two nucleus orbiting each other). On July 24, more pictures will be released following a “FAT burn” (far approach trajectory) adjustment to slow Rosetta down. “CAT burns” (close approach trajectory) on August 3 and 6 will place Rosetta 100 kilometers from the comet surface, traveling in polite unison. Months of August and September bring another “burn” taking Rosetta within 70 kilometers of the surface. October will find Rosetta within 5 kilometers of the surface, looking for a place to land Philae.

Possibly a few days one way or the other, November 11, 2014 Philae will separate from Rosetta, land on the comet surface, deploying anchors to keep it in place. For the next 7 days, a few more if we’re lucky, Philae will sample gases, water, ice, mineral composition – all while taking close up and panoramic pictures of the surface.

Ponder a unmanned space probe using gravitational support and a whole lot of ingenuity to journey 6 billion kilometers in 10 years – all for the prize of a week or so on the surface of a distant comet. If that doesn’t blow your mind, or at very least pass a “holy crap” through your head – I give up.

http://earthsky.org/space/as-the-rosetta-spacecraft-approaches-its-target-comet?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=f55004e443-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-f55004e443-393970565