Monday, 24 November 2014

Sam Rolfe on the Rosetta Mission, Comet 67p and Colin Pillinger @smrolfe



Joining us in the studio on West Herts Drive-time today was our Science Correspondent Sam Rolfe who told us all about Comet 67p, onto which we have recently landed a washing machine sized probe.

Sam told exactly what a comet is; she defined one as a primitive rocky object formed during the early stage of the Solar System. They originate from two places: the Kuiper Belt and beyond the orbit of Neptune.

She then went on to tell us about the Rosetta mission specifically. The main goals of the mission, according to Sam, are to characterise the elemental, isotopic and molecular composition of the comet. Unfortunately the probe launched in 2004 has landed under the shadow of a cliff and is therefore receiving minimal power through its solar panels and only functioned for a mere 64 hours before the battery failed. Finally on the topic, Sam spoke optimistically about the project, despite the setbacks, as she believes that the scientists involved have a moderate chance of utilising the various instruments attached to the probe to restore it to working order.

Finally for today, Sam spoke about the Scientist of the Month: Colin Pillinger. Pillinger worked at Cambridge University and then helped to co-found the Planetary and Space Science Institute. He is best known for his work on the Beagle 2 project to Mars although unfortunately no contact was received from Beagle 2 on arrival, and it's not known what happened to the craft.

For more information on the topics covered on today's show, visit these sites:

http://www.livecometdata.com/comets/67p-churyumov-gerasimenko/
http://www.nature.com/news/philae-s-64-hours-of-comet-science-yield-rich-data-1.16374
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Pillinger

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