FINAL COUNTDOWN NEARS FOR 1ST COMET LANDING

BERLIN (AP) – The final countdown is approaching for one of the most audacious space adventures ever – the European Space Agency’s attempt to land a robot on a comet.

The maneuver marks the climax of the unmanned Rosetta space probe’s decade-long journey to study comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Early Wednesday, scientists at the mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, will decide whether to give Rosetta the go-ahead to release its sidekick, Philae.

The 100-kilogram (220-pound) landing craft will drop in an uncontrolled manner down to the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide comet and shoot harpoons into its icy surface to prevent it from bouncing off.

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Scientists hope that the data collected by Rosetta and its lander will provide insights into the origins of comets and other objects in the universe.

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