Comets: The Fossils of the Solar System

Saturday, October 18, 2014: 4:30 PM
LACC 405 (Los Angeles Convention Center)
Claudia Alexander, PhD , Solar System, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CA
On November 11, 2014, the International Rosetta Project (led by the European Space Agency) will be preparing to land on a comet. It is humanities' first attempt to land on this type of moving and evolving object, a relic from our solar system's formation. The site for the landing will have been selected in Sept, and the Go/No Go decision will be approximately in the timeframe of the SACNAS conference! But wait, there's more! On October 19, Comet Siding Spring is expected to sideswipe Mars, enveloping the whole planet in one of the closest passes of a comet by a planet ever (40 thousand kilometers, which will put the comet close to Mars atmosphere)! In this presentation, I will lay out the case why the exploration of comets is critical to understanding our solar system, and will present the latest details about the difficult logistics of both spacecraft at Mars avoiding comet Siding Spring, as well as the Rosetta missions preparations in hunting down and landing on the surface of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko.