Rosetta Mission Landing Site Has A New Name: Agilkia

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
With just eight days remaining until Rosetta’s Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P/C-G), the actual landing site has been rechristened from Site J to Agilkia, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Tuesday.
According to the agency, the new moniker is in honor of Agilkia Island, an island located on the Nile River in southern Egypt. A complex of ancient Egyptian buildings, including the Temple of Isis, was relocated to Agilkia from the island of Philae when the latter was flooded during the building of the Aswan dams last century, the ESA explained.
“The name was selected by a jury comprising members of the Philae Lander Steering Committee” as part of a contest sponsored by the ESA and the German, French and Italian space agencies that ran from October 16-22, the group added. “Agilkia was one of the most popular entries – it was proposed by over 150 participants.”
The overall winner of that competition was Alexandre Brouste of France, and as a result, he will be invited to ESA’s Space Operations Control Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to follow the landing live on November 12. More than 8,000 entries from 135 countries were submitted during the one-week duration of the contest, the agency said.
Steering Committee chairman Felix Huber of the DLR German Aerospace Center said the decision was “very tough… We received so many good suggestions on how to name Site J, and we were delighted with such an enthusiastic response from all over the world. We wish to thank all participants for sharing their great ideas with us.”
“Participants proposed names in a variety of languages, both ancient and modern; some were even in Esperanto. There were also some interesting acronyms, curious sequences of digits, and onomatopoeic words,” the ESA added. “The entries covered a tremendous range of themes, from abstract concepts to the names of places on Earth.”
As with the winning entry, the organization noted that several of the suggestions built upon the Egyptian origins of the names given to the Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander – which themselves were so named in recognition of the work accomplished in decoding the sacred writing system used by ancient Egyptians, hieroglyphics.
Several of the names referred back to the history of exploration on Earth, while others invoked mythological names such as the gods and goddesses of water, fertility, life and creation worshipped by ancient cultures, the ESA said. Other names honored the work of space exploration pioneers, comet researchers or science fiction authors.
“Fictional characters from films, television shows, literary and musical works were also proposed. Some even referred to the virtual astronauts of the Kerbal Space Program, a popular online space exploration game,” the agency said. Other suggestions referenced the cooperative aspects of the many European countries involved in the mission, its technological and scientific breakthroughs, or tongue-in-cheek references to its unusual appearance.
In the end, however, Agilkia won out, and according to ESA Rosetta mission manager Fred Jansen, “it couldn’t be a more appropriate name. The relocation of the temples of Philae Island to Agilkia Island was an ambitious technical endeavor performed in the 1960s and 1970s to preserve an archaeological record of our ancient history.”
“In eight days’ time, Philae will be deployed from the orbiter onto Agilkia. On 12 November, we’ll be attempting a unique comet landing, an even more ambitious endeavor to unlock secrets of our most remote origins,” he added. On that day, Rosetta is scheduled to release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET. The landing is expected to take place seven hours later, and confirmation is anticipated at approximately 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET, the ESA noted.
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