Europe aims for 1st comet landing Nov. 11

The European Space Agency has set a tentative date for the first landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

This combination of Sept. 10 and 23, 2013 photos provided by NASA shows six comet-like tails radiating from a body in the asteroid belt, designated P/2013 P5. The Hubble Space Telescope discovered it in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. A research team led by the University of California at Los Angeles believes the asteroid is rotating so much that its surface is flying apart. It�s believed to be a fragment of a larger asteroid damaged in a collision 200 million years ago. (AP Photo/NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt - UCLA)

BERLIN (AP) The European Space Agency has set a tentative date for the first landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

ESA says its Rosetta probe will wake up from hibernation Jan. 20 before chasing down comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

If all goes according to plan, Rosetta will launch a lander onto the surface of the comet on Nov. 11, 2014.

The mission is different from NASA's Deep Impact probe that fired a projectile into comet Tempel 1 in 2005 to let scientists study the plume of matter it hurled into space.

ESA's director of science, Mark McCaughrean, said Tuesday that the lander Philae will dig up samples of the comet and analyze them using on-board instruments.

One objective is to learn whether the water on Earth could have come from comets.


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