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The Rosetta science team has chosen the primary landing site on Comet 67P/C-G for its Philae probe.
Site J is on the ‘head’ of the comet, an irregular shaped world that is just over 4 km across at its widest point. The decision to select Site J as the primary site was unanimous. The backup, Site C, is located on the ‘body’ of the comet. The 100 kg lander is planned to reach the surface on 11 November, where it will perform indepth measurements to characterise the nucleus in situ, in a totally unprecedented way.
This site is, located in the outside center of the nucleus’s smaller lobe, was picked unanimously because it appears to be the easiest to reach while also providing good science.
The descent to the comet is passive and it is only possible to predict that the landing point will place within a ‘landing ellipse’ typically a few hundred metres in size.
A one square kilometre area was assessed for each candidate site. At Site J, the majority of slopes are less than 30º relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have relatively few boulders, and receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond the initial battery-powered phase.
Provisional assessment of the trajectory to Site J found that the descent time of Philae to the surface would be about seven hours, a length that does not compromise the on-comet observations by using up too much of the battery during the descent.
I have put a close-up of the landing site below the fold.