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This is what an artist thinks the Rosetta lander will look like on the comet's surface.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of ESA

Rosetta Lander

Part of the Rosetta spacecraft is a lander that will touch down on the surface of the comet. Since the comet is much smaller than a planet or even a moon, the gravity on the surface is very weak. The engineers who designed the Rosetta lander had to make sure it doesn't bounce (and maybe tip over!) when it lands. The lander will be moving very slowly, about one meter/second (two miles/hour), when it touches down. It will shoot harpoons into the icy surface of the comet when it lands. Cables from the harpoons will help hold the lander down on the surface.

The Rosetta mission was supposed to study a comet named Wirtanen. There were some problems with the rocket that Rosetta will be launched on, so Rosetta's launch had to be delayed. Because of the delay, the mission will now study a different comet. Rosetta will study Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The lander will touch down on the nucleus of Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014. The new comet is much bigger than the old one, so it has more gravity. That means the Rosetta lander will be going faster when it lands. Engineers had to make some changes to the legs of the lander to make sure it has a soft landing on the surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Instruments on the lander will measure the types of chemicals found on the surface. The lander also has small drills that will dig into the comet. Samples dug up by the drills will help us find out what is "underground" on a comet. The lander also has cameras that will take pictures from the surface.

Last modified January 8, 2004 by Randy Russell.

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