Postcard From the Middle of Nowhere

A snapshot of Rosetta and comet 67P/C-G, taken by Philae at a range of 16 km.

Rosetta is a spacecraft built and launched by the European Space Agency. Its travel partner is a robotic lander named Philae. Their job is to study a comet named 67P/Churyumav-Gearsimenko, or 67P/C-G for short.

The Rosetta mission launched in March, 2004. A little over a month ago, Rosetta and Philae quietly dropped into orbit around the massive comet.

European Space AgencyOn November 12, in little under a month, Philae will attempt to land on the comet.

Go, go human species! Philae, do the job; we’re all behind you.

Meanwhile, a holiday snap?

What you’re looking at in the picture above is none other than 67P/C-G; Philae took the snapshot, which includes part of the Rosetta structure, from a range of under ten miles

Elizabeth Howell, writing for Universe Today explains:

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.

Additionally, Howell notes, we will hear tomorrow whether or not Site J is cleared for landing; the next data set will be gathered at a range of six miles away from 67p/C-G.

The article comes with a fun, attention grabbing headline, “Creepy Comet Looms In The Background Of Newest Philae Spacecraft Selfie”, but might well overstate the case. After all, when you two hundred ninety eight million miles from home, and all of ten miles away from the only thing in the Universe you can reach, yes, that thing might seem creepy. It’s four and a half miles long. Four miles wide. And it is two hundred ninety eight million miles out in the middle of nowhere and running away from you, yeah, that can be a heart-fluttering moment.

And yet our intrepid explorers push on. Good luck, Philae. And thank you, Rosetta. We know you’re not coming home, but we are so amazed.

And good show, ESA. As we creep toward the climax, we can only wait in thankful awe at the spectacle you’ve given us.

Location of Rosetta mission and comet 67P, 15 October SCET.

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European Space Agency. “Rosetta”. (n.d.)

Howell, Elizabeth. “Creepy Comet Looms In The Background Of Newest Philae Spacecraft Selfie”. Universe Today. 14 October 2014.

“Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) and The Rosetta Spacecraft”. Live Comet Data. 14 October 2014.

(Hat tip and many thanks to S.L.)