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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Ice Climbing on a Comet

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, September 26, 2014/Categories: natural history, space science

Here's a question: What does mountaineering and landing on a comet have in common? Answer: they both use crampons, pitons, and ice screws to maintain stability while climbing on ice cliffs.

In what will be the most daring and hair-raising few minutes since the engineers at JPL waited to learn if the Curiosity rover had safely landed on Mars, the European Space Agency's Rosette orbiter will dispatch a lander to the "ice mountain" comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta is now orbiting the odd shaped rock and ice structure at a distance of eighteen miles capturing photographs of potential landing spots as seen in natural colors. The landing site was announced.

In what could easily be mistaken for as a sheer ice face near the summit of Mount Everest, the comet appears like a jumble of mountains, cliffs, and boulders strewn everywhere. Safe spots for the lander look limited and few. Rosetta's spider-like Philae probe will approach the comet at what would be walking speed on Earth and will deploy ice screws, cables, and bolts to hold it in place on the rugged surface. All bets are off until signals are sent back to Rosetta as the entire process will be automated considering Rosetta's nearly 275 million miles distance from Earth.


Comet "Ice Mountain" natural color, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko  (credit: ESA)


Philea Lander Stabilized on Comet by Ice Screws, artist concept  (credit: ESA)

Hopefully the drills, pitons, and other mountaineering gear is in super-sharp condition to grab onto the comet.

WHB
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