Rosetta spacecraft’s robot to land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko today

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft will oversee its robotic arm to land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko today to probe its surface, said the space agency.

The Rosetta mission’s Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on the comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Wednesday at 10.35 a.m. (EST). If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

After touchdown Nov 12, the Philae lander will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet’s surface.

It will also drill into the surface to study the composition and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies. Philae can remain active on the surface for about two-and-half days.

Its mother ship, the Rosetta spacecraft, will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun and then moves away.

The landing site, formerly known simply as Site J, now has an official name: Agilkia, which refers to an island on the Nile where ancient buildings were relocated after the island Philae flooded, the US space agency said in a statement.

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