Lesson 26 – Landing a Robot on a Comet

Snack & Chat

This week I would like to tell you about something exciting that happened just a number of days ago. A group of scientists and engineers who were very curious about objects that are out in space, did something quite amazing.

First let’s start by taking a look at these photos. The are photos of the stars, taken from earth, and in the middle of those stars is a shiny object that astronomers saw was moving. It’s a comet.

Comet_67P_CG_on_5_Oct_2013_node_full_image_2

This is the best possible photo that we’re able to take of the comet from earth, using the Very Large Telescope. You can see it’s tail in this photo. Does anybody know what comets are made out of? What is their tail made out of?

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Well scientists also want to learn much much more about comets and what they are made out of. So they worked with a group of engineers to design this space ship. It’s called the Rosetta. It’s long blue wings are solar panels, so that it can get all of its energy directly from the sun. And it has a satellite dish so that we can control it from earth, and it can send us information back.

Rosetta_spacecraft

As it got close, this is what it saw: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2014/08/NavCam_animation_6_August

And once it was even closer, it sent us a very surprising photo of the comet. It’s not a round rock! In fact, a lot of the people looking at this photo thought that it looked a lot like a rubber duckie.

This is a much better photo of the comet isn’t it?

Comet_on_3_August_2014_node_full_image_2

Can you guess how big this comet might be? Bigger than our classroom? Bigger than our school? Let me show you exactly how big it is….

Comet_over_London_node_full_image_2

I didn’t get a chance to upload the rest of the photos here, so let’s look at the European Space Agency website, where they have shared all of the photos of this mission.

http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Missions/Rosetta/(class)/image 

There is something very special about this spacecraft Rosetta. It’s carrying a Robot! A space robot in fact… called Philae. This robot has been designed to land on the comet and do some science experiments for us, and send all of that information back to earth. (Show a photo of what it looks like, the areas on the comet that the Operations Team planned to drop it down on – note boulders where it could tip over and shadows where it won’t get enough sun energy, how it looked dropping down from Rosetta, the photos of it bouncing, and the photo of where it is now….

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