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European spacecraft to attempt comet landing next month

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BERLIN — The European Space Agency has confirmed the time and place it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet.

The agency said Wednesday its unmanned probe Rosetta will release the 100-kilogram (220-pound) lander at 0835 GMT (3:35 EST) on Nov. 12.

The aim is to drop its lander Philae at a location dubbed 'Site J' on the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

PHOTO: The image composed of two different images and provided by the European Space Agency ESA on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2015 shows parts of the spacecraft Rosetta in front of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from a distance of about 16 km from the surface of the comet. The image was taken on 7 October and captures the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, with the comet in the background.  Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation. The comet's active ‘neck’ region is clearly visible, with streams of dust and gas extending away from the surface. (AP Photo/ESA)
The image composed of two different images and provided by the European Space Agency ESA on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2015 shows parts of the spacecraft Rosetta in front of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from a distance of about 16 km from the surface of the comet. The image was taken on 7 October and captures the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, with the comet in the background. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation. The comet's active ‘neck’ region is clearly visible, with streams of dust and gas extending away from the surface. (AP Photo/ESA)

The maneuver will take about seven hours. But because the radio signals take 28 minutes to travel hundreds of millions of miles (kilometers) back to Earth, confirmation of a successful landing won't arrive until about 1603 GMT (11:03 a.m. EST).

Scientists hope the mission will help them learn more about the origins and evolution of objects in the universe.


Online:

http://www.esa.int/rosetta

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