how to drill a comet

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

While Plan­e­tary Re­sources is busy scop­ing out as­ter­oids, the Euro­pean Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is on its way to comet 67P/Churyu­mov– Gerasi­menko. Ar­riv­ing in May, it will dis­patch its un­manned Phi­lae lan­der to drill into the sur­face and cling for dear life as the comet sling­shots around the back of the Sun, dis­in­te­grat­ing in the heat as it goes.

Its task is to work out what chemical com­pounds are present at the cen­tre of a comet. We know they con­tain or­ganic mol­e­cules rich in car­bon, hy­dro­gen, oxy­gen and ni­tro­gen that serve as the build­ing blocks for life, but it’s hoped Rosetta’s data could ei­ther con­firm or dis­prove the Big Bang the­ory.

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