A crucial part of the Rosetta mission is the successful landing of the Philae lander on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will gather data that scientists hope could shed light on how the solar system evolved and possibly how life on Earth began.
On Sept. 26, the European Space Agency (ESA) finally revealed the date that the Philae lander is set to touch down on the rugged surface of the comet, and this will be on Nov. 12, albeit the time of release will depend on the landing scenario.
The space agency has considered two landing scenarios, one involving the primary target landing spot "Site J" and the other for the backup landing location "Site C." For the scenario that will target Site J, Philae will be released at 08:35 GMT. The robotic lander is expected to land seven hours later. If the landing will take place on Site C, the lander will be released at 13:04 GMT with the landing expected to take place about four hours later.
There were five candidate sites for the primary landing spot of the lander, but Site J was chosen earlier this month. Site J poses relatively fewer hazards for landing on the surface of the comet, characterized by depressions, cliffs and boulders that could damage the robotic lander.
The landing spot is also located in an area that scientists believe offer unique scientific potentials and where there is enough daily illumination to recharge the lander. Scientists involved in the mission said that Site J appears to offer the best solution among other potential landing sites in the comet.
"We will make the first ever in-situ analysis of a comet at this site, giving us an unparalleled insight into the composition, structure and evolution of a comet," said lead lander scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring.
The primary landing site and scenario will be confirmed on Oct. 14 after a Lander Operations Readiness Review. At the moment, ESA scientists have been conducting detailed analysis of flight trajectories and timing for the delivery of the Philae.
Rosetta's mission is not yet over after the landing of the Philae on the comet's surface. The spacecraft, which was launched to study in close proximity the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, will continue studying the comet using the instruments it has on board.
"The Rosetta orbiter will continue to study the comet and its environment using its 11 science instruments as they orbit the Sun together," the ESA said.