Published December 10, 2013
BERLIN – The European Space Agency has set a tentative date for the first landing of a spacecraft on a comet.
ESA says its Rosetta probe will wake up from hibernation Jan. 20 before chasing down comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
If all goes according to plan, Rosetta will launch a lander onto the surface of the comet on Nov. 11, 2014.
The mission is different from NASA's Deep Impact probe that fired a projectile into comet Tempel 1 in 2005 to let scientists study the plume of matter it hurled into space.
ESA's director of science, Mark McCaughrean, said Tuesday that the lander Philae will dig up samples of the comet and analyze them using on-board instruments.
One objective is to learn whether the water on Earth could have come from comets.