dr Matt Tay­lor

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

the rosetta Project sci­en­tist tells all

What is the Rosetta team’s pri­mary ob­jec­tive?

Pre­vi­ous cometary mis­sions have pro­vided snap­shots of comets from hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres away, but for the first time we will ride along with one. And if that’s not enough, the cherry on the top is that we will de­ploy a lan­der on to its sur­face.

What do we want to learn from this comet?

Comets are in­ter­est­ing as they were thrown out into deep freeze at the outer edge of the so­lar sys­tem. Ev­ery so of­ten, grav­ity brings them back into the in­ner sys­tem. This comet can be con­sid­ered a cos­mic time cap­sule, in a way, con­tain­ing rel­a­tively pri­mor­dial ma­te­rial from the build­ing blocks of space.

Might we one day be able to use comets as a re­source?

Given the very ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges in­volved in ren­dezvous­ing with a comet, let alone de­ploy­ing the lan­der, I would con­sider them to be a rather dif­fi­cult and ex­ceed­ingly costly re­source. How­ever, the amaz­ing jour­ney that Rosetta has un­der­gone and the up­com­ing chal­lenge of ac­tu­ally land­ing on the comet will no doubt pro­vide valu­able tech­no­log­i­cal lessons to help when plan­ning all fu­ture plan­e­tary mis­sions.

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