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Expert Comment: Professor Tom Marsh - Rosetta spacecraft will provide "a close-up view of a survivor from the earliest times of the Solar System"

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Commenting ahead of the Rosetta spacecraft’s landing on a comet, Professor Tom Marsh – leader of the University of Warwick’s Astronomy and Astrophysics group, said: "It is a very difficult and ambitious task, but if it comes off we will have a close-up view of a survivor from the earliest times of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago".

Professor Marsh's full comment:

“This is an amazing mission from several perspectives. It is the first time we have ever tried to land anything on a comet. Comets are relics left over from the formation of the Solar System. They are thought be composed of snow, ice and dust. Comets may have provided the water on Earth early in its history. This will be our first chance to see and measure the surface of a comet directly. The lander Philae will leave the spacecraft Rosetta from a height of 22.5 km above the centre of the comet at 08.35 on the morning of Nov 12. It will take seven hours to reach the surface of the comet.

This happens remotely, under no active control from Earth, because the signals take about 30 minutes to travel between the spacecraft and Earth. The gravity on the comet is tiny -- around 10,000 times less than the gravity on Earth -- so there is significant risk of bouncing off the comet. The lander is equipped with two harpoons that will be fired into the comet to anchor it. It is a very difficult and ambitious task, but if it comes off we will have a close-up view of a survivor from the earliest times of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago.”

To speak with Professor Marsh please contact:

Tom Frew - International Press Officer, University of Warwick;

a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk

+44 (0) 2476575910

Professor Tom Marsh - T dot R dot Marsh at warwick dot ac dot uk