Spacecraft snaps amazing selfie as it prepares to land on comet

Riding atop the Rosetta spacecraft as it orbits Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency's Philae lander has snapped a photo of itself, with the comet in the background. 

ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
Using the CIVA camera on Rosetta’s Philae lander, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at 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.

So this spacecraft — taking this picture — is going to land on the surface of THAT comet. Doesn’t this give you a pit in your stomach? This is a selfie taken from the Philae spacecraft that, riding piggyback, captured the side of the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting  Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The image is so close-up — just 9.9 miles (16 kilometers) from 67P’s surface — that mission planners can even spot Landing Site J on the comet’s smaller lobe.

“Two images, one with a short exposure time, one with a longer one, were combined to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene, from the bright parts of the solar arrays to the dark comet and the dark insulation cladding the Rosetta spacecraft,” the European Space Agency stated.

It’s quite the zoom-in after the last selfie that Philae produced for the public in September, which was taken from 31 miles (50 kilometers) away. The spacecraft is expected to make the first touchdown ever on a comet next month. Rosetta, meanwhile, will keep following 67P as it gets closest to the sun in 2015, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

Tomorrow (Oct. 15), mission managers will announce if Site J is go or no go for a landing. More information is coming from Rosetta’s examination of the site from itsnew, lower altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).

Source: European Space Agency

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter@howellspace or contact her at her website.

Originally posted on Universe Today.

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