Public Talk

This year’s public talk will be delivered by Laurence O’Rourke from ESA



Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 7th September from 8pm, Iontas Building

Title: “The dangers of landing on a comet….twice”

Abstract: This talk will describe the engineering challenges and the dangers of the Rosetta mission with a focus on the two landings that were performed on the comet – the first being the Philae lander in November 2014 and the second the Rosetta spacecraft itself when it landed to end the mission on 30th September last year.
While summarising what is now known about the comet, the engineering & scientific techniques used by the team in taking measurements at the comet will be described including how the landing site of Philae was identified. The presentation will cover the Philae landing & its findings and in particular will highlight the work done by the Rosetta team in locating Philae on the surface of the comet nearly 2 years after it landed/bounced and was lost in a rocky shadowy region. The presentation will then cover the dangers faced by the spacecraft when flying around the comet as it got closer to the sun before focussing in on the second and final landing. At this point, the steps required to land the mother craft Rosetta on the comet including how its the final resting site was chosen will be presented as well as providing a run through the final weeks & days & minutes leading to that event.

Background to Laurence O’Rourke
Laurence O’Rourke is a Native of Westmeath, with a double honours degree from Maynooth University and a Masters from the Tyndall institute in Cork. He has being working for the European Space Agency since 1996, located at 3 of its establishments (ESTEC, ESOC and currently ESAC in Madrid) as an Engineer and a Scientist.
As an engineer, he has worked on 6 satellite missions for ESA during this time. As Rosetta Science Operations Manager he jointly leads a large team of scientists and engineers at ESAC. He was also the system engineer on the ESA side for the landing activities of Philae on the comet and headed the work of the Lander Search Group formed to find Philae on the surface of the comet; it was due to his detailed analysis that the famous image of Philae on the surface was successfully taken in September last year. Besides his day to day work on Rosetta, he also works on an exoplanet search mission called PLATO and an asteroid impact mission called AIM.
As a scientist he publishes papers on asteroids and comets and based upon his Nature paper covering the first confirmed detection of water in the asteroid belt he was awarded an asteroid with his name from the IAU. He has given many talks on the Rosetta mission around Europe including two TEDx talks in Greece and Portugal, as well as talks more further afield in Chile and Bahrain.

Link to TEDx talk