Aerospace

Most of the world that has access to the Internet knows two things about the Rosetta mission - it landed on a comet and a European engineer wore an ugly shirt that offended a lot of American women on Twitter.

The least interesting news is that the ESA now knows that if women can't wear bathing suits to represent them on television, then male project scientists cannot wear bowling shirts and shorts. The important news, however, is that mankind has shown we can go on a 10 year, 4 billion mile journey through the solar system and land on a rock the size of Cork City, Ireland.
Hey, does anyone want this comet?

For the first time, mankind has successfully landed on a comet - a journey over 10 years in the making.

After a seven-hour final descent, Rosetta’s Philae probe signaled from the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and the message arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT, completing the longest part of a 4 billion mile journey through the solar system.

The landing site, named Agilkia and located on the head of the bizarre double-lobed object, was chosen based on images and data collected at distances of 30–100 km from the comet. Those first images soon revealed the comet as a world littered with boulders, towering cliffs and daunting precipices and pits, with jets of gas and dust streaming from the surface.

Rosetta: Firing harpoons in space. ESA/ATG medialab

By Alan Fitzsimmons, Queen's University Belfast

The first attempted landing on the surface of a comet is a huge landmark in the history of space exploration that will not only uncover further details about comets but could unlock further clues about the origins of our solar system and the development of life on Earth.


Rosetta mission: A giant leap for humans and robots. Huart, ESA

By Natalie Starkey, The Open University

Aircraft propelled by beams of light rather than fuel? Laser-propulsion just got a step closer thanks to a new method for improving the thrust systems developed by physicists Yuri Rezunkov of the Institute of Optoelectronic Instrument Engineering and Alexander Schmidt of the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute in Saint Petersburg. 

Currently, the maximum speed of a spacecraft is limited by the amount of solid or liquid fuel that it can carry. Achieving higher speeds means that more fuel must be burned—fuel that, inconveniently, has to be carried by the craft and hefted into space. These burdensome loads can be reduced, however, if a laser—one located at a remote location, and not actually on the spacecraft—were used to provide additional propulsive force.