Any Star Trek fans out there? Remember how Scotty explains transwarp beaming to Spock?
Let me refresh your memory
“The notion of transwarp beaming is like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet, whilst wearing a blindfold, riding a horse.” – Montgomery Scott, 2258 (Star Trek)
Pretty intimidating right? How about trying to land a robotic lander on a 10 billion ton hunk of ice and dust measuring about 4 km in diameter and travelling at a blazing speed of 135,000 kilometres per hour!
Well the European Space Agency (ESA) together with NASA has just managed to do that. After its launch on the 2nd March 2004 on a decade long journey of over 6 billion kilometres, the space craft Rosetta reached the trajectory of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko which orbits the Sun once every 6.6 years.
The masterminds behind this project had to predict the movements of main planetary bodies and maintain the speed and position of the space craft to perfectly align it to the comets path
The main aim of the Rosetta mission was to unlock the mysteries of comets, made from ancient material that pre-dates the birth of the solar system.
In the data Rosetta and Philae collect, researchers hope to learn more of how the solar system formed and how comets carried water and complex organics to the planets, preparing the stage for life on Earth.
The following is a picture that the Philae lander managed to take 3km above the comet and the Rosetta space craft managed to take at a distance of 9.7km from the surface of the comet.
As of the latest information the Philae lander could not anchor itself properly to the comet due to the malfunctioning of its harpoon system. But after bouncing twice it has now settled in the shadow of a cliff about 1 km away from its intended landing site making it virtually impossible for Philae to recharge its batteries and continue its scientific research.