Europe comet mission deserves Nobel, says space chief

A handout released by the ESA/ATG medialab on November 12, 2014 shows an artists impression of the European probe Philae separat
A handout released by the ESA/ATG medialab on November 12, 2014 shows an artists impression of the European probe Philae separating from its mother ship Rosetta and descending to the surface of comet

A European mission that made the first landing on a comet deserves the Nobel prize, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

"I hope there will be Nobel prizewinners coming along thanks to Philae and Rosetta," said ESA chief Jean-Jacques Dordain, referring to the robot lab that made the historic landing, and its mother ship.

The mission "is a love story," Dordain told journalists in Paris.

"We will be amassing an amount of data... that in my opinion will keep scientists busy for decades to come."

Approved in 1993, the Rosetta mission is all about exploring the composition of comets.

Believed to be primordial clusters of ice and dust left from the building of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago, comets contain insights into how the planets formed, astrophysicists believe.

The mission has been hailed as a landmark in space exploration, bringing together unprecedented feats of navigation and engineering.

The prestigious US journal Science named the landing as the top scientific breakthrough of 2014.

Early analysis of data sent back by Rosetta suggest that asteroids, and not comets as previously theorised, provided Earth with water, the precious stuff for making life as we know it.

Evidence for this comes from telltale ratios in water molecules between deuterium, a hydrogen isotope, and hydrogen, which forms water when combined with oxygen.

A photo taken by the the Rosetta Lander Imaging System and released on November 12, 2014 by the European Space Agency shows the
A photo taken by the the Rosetta Lander Imaging System and released on November 12, 2014 by the European Space Agency shows the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during lander Philae's descent

The 100-kilogramme (220-pound) Philae landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12 after a 10-year trek piggybacking on Rosetta.

But the landing, on a surface that proved to be tough and icy, was bumpy.

Harpoons designed to anchor the lander to the surface failed to fire.

Philae bounced up after , came back down some distance away, bounced again and on its third contact finally settled.

But the probe found itself at an angle and in the shadow of a cliff, crimping its ability to harvest sunlight to recharge its battery.

People celebrate in the Main Control Room at ESA's Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, as separation of the Philae l
People celebrate in the Main Control Room at ESA's Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, as separation of the Philae lander from ESA Rosetta orbiter is confirmed on November 12, 2014

It went into standby mode after nearly 60 hours' work, but was able to send back vital data in time.

Attempts to locate it using a powerful camera aboard Rosetta have so far come to naught.

But there are hopes Philae can revive in March, when sunlight powers up its solar panels as the comet draws closer to the Sun.

Comet "C-G" will reach perihelion, the nearest point in its orbit around the star, on August 13.

By the end of the year, it will be heading out once more towards the depths of the Solar System, escorted by Rosetta and with Philae riding on it.


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Comet probe 'may revive in March', French space chief says

Journal information: Science

© 2015 AFP

Citation: Europe comet mission deserves Nobel, says space chief (2015, January 16) retrieved 19 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-01-europe-comet-mission-nobel-space.html
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Jan 16, 2015
celebrating failure is how politicians destroy the world, let alone good science.

this lander was supposed to land and gather data for a substantial period. it failed. plane and simple.

to add insult to injury they want to pretend it was a wild success. as if orbiting a comet at a great distance is such a big accomplishment in space science. if it were, the mission would not have been conceived of with a lander.

Jan 17, 2015
It looks pretty successful to me, but no matter. Nobel prizes are awarded to individuals (or divided among a maximum of three people), not organizations, and it certainly can't be said that a space mission is accomplished by just one or two or three individuals, which makes it a pretty silly thing for Dordain to have said. No Nobel prize for the first man in orbit, or for Apollo 11, but yes for this? Hardly.

Jan 17, 2015
Having a man-made craft chase down a comet after travelling through the solar system for 10 years, making 4 circuits of the sun and travelling for over 1.3 billion kilometers to then actually find and orbit a previously unvisited comet is an AMAZING feat and well worth the accolades being heaped upon them. The Philae lander was something that had never been attempted before, the closest parallel being Eros, and it not only landed, it transmitted for a period of time. That it was unlucky and fell into a depression does not take away from it's accomplishment.

The apathy and lack of understanding displayed by the above comments is a sad reflection of how the wonder of such a momentous event has become jaded by the success of space agencies around the world. They most assuredly deserve consideration of a Nobel prize, and other groups have so won it - the IPCC for one, the OPCW for another.

Jan 17, 2015
this lander was supposed to land and gather data for a substantial period.


It did, and operated for 60 hours, completing all the planned measurements.

The primary mission was to land, drill a sample and make all the essential measurements with the 60 hours of power stored in the main battery, then enter sleep and hope that the solar panels catch enough sunlight to wake it up again.

There was never any guarantee that they could even find a suitable sunny landing site on the comet for the solar panels to work, which is why the mission was designed with the primary mission in mind, and why it was declared a success after the primary mission was.

The secondary mission has not failed yet either. That is to be seen when the comet moves closer to the sun, because the carrier satellite is still orbiting the comet and listening if the lander wakes up.

Jan 17, 2015
The secondary mission has not failed yet either. That is to be seen when the comet moves closer to the sun, because the carrier satellite is still orbiting the comet and listening if the lander wakes up.
And just to add onto this a little bit, the primary mission has always been that the orbiter would be with the comet as it passes perihelion and travels away into deep space. The Philae lander was never intended as the primary mission, it has always been an add on to the primary. That it arrived and successfully landed WAS it's main purpose, anything beyond that was considered a bonus.

If it indeed awakes when the comet reaches perihelion and begins to transmit data again would be incredibly lucky.

Jan 18, 2015
All brilliant comments barring teslaberry, who may be one of the younger internet generation who want everything NOW!!!!!

If they are going to hand out Nobel prizes for these things, then a new category needs to ebe created. As PhotonX mentioned, what about the manned landing on the Moon!!!! To me, that was more worthy, yet didn't get a mention. So perhaps they could be handed out retrospectively. Mind you, I'm amazed at all science space missions, so I'd hand one out to everyone!!!!!!! If SpaceX makes a powered landing on their barge, then bingo hand another one out!!! They might get a little too common then!!!

So a new prize all together I think!!!!!

I suspect the comments from ESA weren't meant to be taken seriously, just trying to show how momentous the mission was. If you look at the history of the entire mission, then it was incredible that they pulled it off.

Jan 19, 2015
teslaberry
You must be the understudy to RealityCheck, you share the same warped attitude to science and the same NASTY streak of envy if anyone else accomplishes anything. Stick to the sci-fi channel if you want instant entertainment and leave the science to the adults.

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