Comet mission could provide insights into origins of Earth’s water and life

Posted by pt91 at Nov 11, 2014 11:50 AM |
Planetary scientist involved in early stages of Rosetta mission discusses its significance
Comet mission could provide insights into origins of Earth’s water and life

The deployment of the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image of the comet was taken with the navigation camera on Rosetta (ESA/Rosetta/NavCam).

Tomorrow (12 Nov) sees NASA's Rosetta satellite launch its Philae lander onto the surface of the ancient comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and in anticipation of this historic event a University of Leicester scientist has commented on the significance of the mission.

Professor Stanley Cowley from our Department of Physics and Astronomy was involved in the early stages of planning Rosetta's scientific sensors and has worked on a number of missions aimed at learning more about comets. He was also a member of the first ever mission to study a comet, NASA’s International Cometary Explorer (ICE) spacecraft.

According to Professor Cowley, “Comet impacts are thought to have been one of the principal means by which water was delivered to the early Earth, around 3.6 billion years ago, possibly contributing half the water in our oceans.  The other half would have come from the Earth’s interior.

“Furthermore, the comet material is also known to contain simple organic molecules which may also have seeded Earth with the material from which life emerged. So lots of good reasons to look at these objects carefully!”