Rosetta probes how to land on ‘rubber duck’

The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled the spot where the Rosetta space probe will attempt it’s first ever landing.

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Codenamed “J”, the site offers the best chance for a safe landing on an exceptionally difficult target, while also offering conditions for meeting scientific goals, ESA said.

When scientists first selected comet 67P (Churyumov–Gerasimenko) as the landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae they made the reasonable assumption that the comet’s nucleus would be roughly potato-shaped.

But as Rosetta journeyed towards to comet, and scientists got a closer look, they found it more closely resembled a rubber duck.

Rosetta flight director, Andrea Accomazzo, says the downside of this is it increases the chance of problems, such as having the craft tip over, crash into a rock or fall off a cliff.

“The shape of the comet is a little bit unexpected. We consider it at the same time fantastic, a unique object. On the other side there’s some headache in identifying some proper landing sites because of the unusual shape,” she said.

The site is one of five potential locations for landing, which is scheduled for November 11.

Once it lands, 10 instruments are set to start taking pictures, collecting samples and drilling for material beneath the surface.

Project scientist, Matt Taylor says the landing site is the kind of challenge scientists are made for.

“Scientifically, it’s very entertaining. It has aspects of a number of different comets wrapped in one. It offers so much scientifically but also it’s a massive challenge technologically,” he said.

Comet “67P” comprises two lobes joined by a narrow neck, resembling the shape of a rubber duck — though one that is pitch-black, darker even than charcoal.

Three of the candidate sites were on the smaller lobe, or head of the “duck”, and two on the larger lobe, or body.

The oval-shaped landing site called “J” is roughly where the duck’s forehead would be.

NASA inspector blasts asteroid protection

NASA’s effort to identify potentially dangerous space rocks has taken a hit.

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On Monday, the space agency’s inspector-general released a report blasting NASA’s Near Earth Objects program, which is meant to hunt and catalogue comets, asteroids and relatively large fragments of these objects that pass within 45 million kilometres of Earth.

The purpose is to protect the planet against their potential dangers.

Most near-Earth objects harmlessly disintegrate before reaching Earth’s surface. But there are exceptions, like the nearly 20m meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013, causing considerable damage.

In a 44-page report, Inspector-General Paul Martin said the Near Earth Objects program needs to be better organised and managed, with a bigger staff.

NASA’s science mission chief, former astronaut John Grunsfeld, agreed and promised the problems will be fixed.

“NASA places a high priority on finding and characterising hazardous asteroids to protect our home planet from them” he said in a statement.

According to the report, the program has an executive at NASA headquarters and two offices in Massachusetts and California, each with six employees.

For nearly a decade, the report noted, NASA has been tracking near-Earth objects bigger than 140m across. The goal was to catalogue 90 per cent by 2020.

The space agency has discovered and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 near-Earth objects since 1998, an estimated 10 per cent. It does not expect to meet the 2020 deadline.

The program has insufficient oversight, Martin’s office concluded, and no established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA needs to do a better job of overseeing the various observatories searching for near-Earth objects, and teaming up with other US and international agencies, the report said.

Uncapped Harris named in All Blacks squad

Coach Hansen named three hookers for the tour, with Bay of Plenty rake Harris joining Dane Coles and veteran Keven Mealamu in the 31-man squad for the matches in La Plata on Sept.

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27 and Johannesburg on Oct. 4.

Harris, who has been part of the wider training squad this year, is likely to make his debut off the bench in Johannesburg as Coles will return to New Zealand following the Argentina test to attend the birth of his first child.

Utility back Ryan Crotty has also been named in the squad but only for the South Africa leg as he has just made his return for Canterbury in provincial rugby after breaking his cheekbone.

Crotty’s absence from Argentina almost certainly ensures Malakai Fekitoa of a start at inside centre alongside the other specialist centre in the squad, Conrad Smith, although Ben Smith and Charles Piutau can both play in the midfield if required.

Ben Smith played inside centre for the second half of the All Blacks’ 14-10 victory over South Africa in Wellington last Saturday in place of the injured Ma’a Nonu, who has been ruled out for the year after breaking his arm in the game.

Injured flyhalf Dan Carter as well as locks Patrick Tuipulotu and Dominic Bird have been released from the squad and will play provincial rugby to get back to match fitness following injuries.

Lock Sam Whitelock and loose forwards Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam, though, have all recovered from their injuries and will be on the plane to Argentina at the weekend.

Forwards: #Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read.

Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, *Ryan Crotty, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.

# only for Argentina leg; * only for South Africa leg

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Swans point to strong ANZ Stadium record

One glance at Sydney’s imposing AFL finals record at ANZ Stadium is enough to understand why the Swans don’t seem too fussed about playing their big September games there rather than at the SCG.

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Going into Friday’s preliminary final against North Melbourne, Sydney boast a 7-1 finals record at the main 2000 Olympics venue.

They lost their first finals game there against Brisbane in 2003, but have vanquished all subsequent September visitors to the western Sydney ground.

Some pundits continue to push for the SCG to host finals, especially when ANZ Stadium’s surface has come under fire, as it did in the recent game against Richmond.

If Swans players have any complaints about the ground, they haven’t aired them publicly and have been models of diplomacy when quizzed about which venue they prefer.

“It (ANZ Stadium) has got no issues for us,” Swans co-captain Jarrad McVeigh said.

“We’ve got a really good record out there.

“The surface was fantastic (for the qualifying final) against Fremantle after a lot of rain in Sydney and we can’t wait to get out there.

“We’re used to it, we’ve played there 10 or so years. There’s no ‘we want to play here or there’.”

McVeigh is having another productive season for Sydney, averaging 24 disposals a game, though the classy midfielder isn’t particularly impressed.

“It hasn’t been too bad, probably not up to the standard I would have liked,” McVeigh said.

McVeigh played against his elder brother Mark during the latter’s time at Essendon and fellow Swan Kurt Tippett could line up directly on his younger sibling, North Melbourne defender Joel Tippett.

“He (Kurt) would be pretty happy maybe to get one over his little brother, it would be hard for his parents,” McVeigh said.

While Kurt Tippett has been outshone in the goal-kicking stakes by teammate Lance Franklin, McVeigh denied the former Crow forward-ruckman has anything to prove in the finals.

“I think we all want to play well, so there’s no added pressure on him,” McVeigh said.

Essendon earn AFL win over promising GWS

Essendon have stayed within reach of the AFL’s top eight with a 15-point victory against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night.

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The 11.15 (81) to 9.12 (66) win at Spotless Stadium marked the Giants’ eighth straight loss, but they didn’t go down without a fight, closing to within one point in a fiery final quarter.

Backing up from an encouraging performance against Hawthorn last weekend, the fledgling club heaped plenty of pressure on their more senior opponents in front of 8,429 fans.

Both sides struggled on the slippery surface, particularly in a scrappy and low-scoring opening quarter.

It took fewer than 90 seconds for the Bombers to get on the board via late inclusion Cory Dell’Olio, in his first match of the season.

That was soon negated by the Giants’ impressive debutant Rory Lobb, who nabbed his maiden major with his first kick in the AFL.

The 21-year-old ex-basketballer, the tallest player on the club’s list at 206cm, was brought in to help plug the hole left by suspended forward Jeremy Cameron and proved mightily useful across the park.

GWS manned up well and with their early energy, stayed within eight points of the Bombers at the first break.

They burst out of the huddle in the second quarter, scoring back-to-back goals to take the lead.

But it was quickly undone by a series of turnovers, upon which Mark Thompson’s men capitalised with a pair of majors of their own, to head into the main break 5.8 (38) to 4.4 (28).

Two early second-half goals to Essendon appeared to zap the spirit out of the home team, who only managed a single goal in a lacklustre third quarter to drop 20 points behind.

The term ended on a fiery note, with a number of players involved in a melee after GWS small forward Devon Smith copped a high elbow from David Myers.

The incident, however, spurred on the Giants, who turned what was becoming an uneventful match into an exciting contest with three quick-fire goals to Adam Treloar, Rhys Palmer and Adam Tomlinson.

It took them within a whisker of the lead, until the Bombers wrested back control with three majors of their own.

Treloar took his haul to three with a consolation goal on the siren.

Essendon will now sweat on the fitness of veteran Dustin Fletcher who was subbed off midway through the third quarter with a suspected lower-back injury.

Skipper Jobe Watson also limped off in the game’s closing stages.

Thompson said Watson had suffered a suspected quad injury and could miss up to four weeks.

“It’s not always a bad thing, as long as he does good rehab,” the rather relaxed coach said.

“It’s just over halfway through the season, so there’s plenty of time.”

Despite the Giants’ last-quarter fightback, Thompson didn’t believe his men were ever under serious threat.

“I thought it wasn’t our best game but it certainly wasn’t our worst,” he added.

“We won enough of the ball at times, we kicked enough goals at times, we defended the goals at times.

“It wasn’t a complete match but I never felt at any stage we were going to lose the game and we’ve come away fairly happy really.”

GWS coach Leon Cameron was encouraged by the level of intensity shown by his side.

“The last two weeks have been good and that’s probably what we’ve been priding our game on – hanging in there, stopping the opposition from scoring,” he said.

“Everyone wants to win games, we want to win games, and it’s disappointing we lost. But I can’t have a crack at our players for their effort.”

Inglis injured as Rabbitohs win in Perth

Queensland’s bid to win a ninth straight State of Origin title took another blow on Saturday night when star back Greg Inglis injured his ankle in South Sydney’s 34-18 NRL win over the NZ Warriors in Perth.

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Inglis could hardly walk after his right leg twisted awkwardly under the weight of two players in a tackle-gone-wrong just before half-time.

The 27-year-old was clearly in pain as he limped off and his injury could prove to be the breaking point of Queensland’s eight-year Origin domination.

The Maroons are already 1-0 down in the series, meaning the June 18 clash in Sydney is a must-win affair.

But with star fullback Billy Slater still under an injury cloud, the last man the Queensland could afford to lose was Inglis.

Rabbitohs winger Bryson Goodwin, a late replacement for Alex Johnson, was also in the casualty ward after hyper-extending his left elbow while making a second-half tackle.

Despite the double injury blow, the Rabbitohs ran in five tries in the final 21 minutes to secure the come-from-behind win in front of 20,267 fans.

The situation wasn’t looking so bright early when tries to David Fusitu’a and Shaun Johnson put the Warriors 10-0 up after just eight minutes.

Superman would have been proud of Fusitu’a’s effort, the winger launching himself full stretch and dotting down in the corner despite more than half of his air-borne body being in touch.

The Rabbitohs took a while to work their way into the contest, but looked dangerous once they did.

Centre Dylan Walker reduced the margin to four points when he sliced his way through the Warriors’ defence in the 24th minute.

With the momentum starting to shift, the Warriors opted to unleash some physical pain on the Rabbitohs.

Substitute Sebastine Ikahihifo was placed on report for a high hit on George Burgess and he left another Rabbitoh dazed just minutes later with a bruising tackle.

The Warriors were on track for victory when Simon Mannering’s 50th-minute try gave them a 14-6 edge.

But tries to Rabbitohs pair Walker and Kyle Turner within the space of two minutes swung the match South Sydney’s way, giving the ‘home’ side a 16-14 edge with 19 minutes to play.

A double to Dave Tyrrell iced the win, with Joel Reddy also scoring during the second half rout when he floated across a pack to take a high grab before crashing over.

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire confirmed Inglis had injured his ankle, but the club doctors were unsure about the severity of the damage.

“It got twisted underneath the tackle, and the leg did get caught there. It’s not great at the moment,” Maguire said.

“But he’s aggravated that same injury once before and he’s healed very quickly, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

“It was a game where we just had to fight until the death.

“We had no bench at one stage. I’m really proud of the team.”

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden felt his side missed a golden chance to secure victory over a high-profile rival.

“I thought given the circumstances, they were cherry ripe for the picking,” McFadden said.

“They hung in there and we went away completely from what we’ve been practising, and lost our way.”

Late Smith try helps NZ to scrappy win over England

“We expected England to be a very good side and that’s what we got,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a televised interview.

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“We had to work for it but when you come off limited preparations you are going to be rusty and we were.

“Our handling at times was very poor, from our strike plays we let ourselves down a bit, but we showed really good mental fortitude to stay in the game. “I think we controlled the game in the second half but didn’t put them away because of our errors. “Happy to take the win but clearly work to be done before next week.”

WRITTEN OFF

The tourists, who were written off during the week because several first team players only arrived in the country on Wednesday following the England club final, showed they would be a force at next year’s World Cup with their developing depth and all-round game.

Unlike England sides of the past, they were prepared to spread the ball wide with Manu Tuilagi, who tore the All Blacks to shreds two years ago at Twickenham, again the focal point of their attack, constantly threatening the line and making ground. The visitors also controlled the tempo of the game in the first half and did not allow the All Blacks to develop any rhythm. “I think we were probably half a yard off the pace in the first half,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. “It took us about 40 minutes to build into it and it was a lot better in the second half even though the scoreboard was pretty close.” The scoring in the first half was restricted to three penalties each to England flyhalf Freddie Burns and Cruden despite several attempts by both sides to breach smothering defensive lines. The All Blacks upped their tempo in the second half and dominated territory but were again guilty of stupid errors, either in execution or discipline that released any pressure they had built up.

The match then ultimately turned on Yarde’s yellow card after he failed to roll away following a tackle on Brodie Retallick. While replacement Danny Cipriani levelled the scores at 15-15 with little over five minutes remaining, Smith’s late try gave the hosts the breathing room they required. The visitors, however, now head to next week’s second test in Dunedin with supreme confidence with a full squad to pick from. “I’m very pleased with the guys, we’ve got two games remaining in the series and that’s what it’s all about,” England captain Chris Robshaw said. “We’re disappointed but it’s a three game series and… we’re going to get better over the next few weeks.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Rosberg beats Hamilton to Canadian GP pole

After controversy surrounded Rosberg’s pole in Monaco two weeks ago, the German left no room for argument in another psychological blow for Hamilton on a sunny afternoon at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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“I expect it will be between the two of us for now,” said Rosberg. “Of course there might be a surprise.

“I’ve come here knowing that I’ve won the last race. It just helps a bit. Lewis obviously had that winning streak and to bring that to an end was important,” said the German, whose Monaco win ended Hamilton’s run of four in a row.

Rosberg, who is four points clear of Hamilton but has never finished higher than fifth in Canada, pulled out a stunning lap of one minute 14.874 seconds to beat the Briton by 0.079. “I know it’s a track where he’s very strong,” said Rosberg. “I’m very happy that it worked out.”

He had already thrown down the gauntlet to his team mate by going fastest with his first flying lap of the third and final session on the island layout and Hamilton failed to meet the challenge. “The car was good, I just didn’t drive it that well,” Hamilton, a three times winner in Montreal including the first grand prix triumph of his career in 2007, told reporters. “Nico did a fantastic job today, so congratulations to him. “It just wasn’t the greatest qualifying session. Sometimes you have good ones, sometimes you have bad ones. But it’s great for the team that we’ve got the one-two and a really fantastic performance by the team. Let’s hope we can make history tomorrow.” In Monaco, another track Hamilton loves, the Briton had suggested Rosberg deliberately brought out yellow warning flags at the end of qualifying in an incident that forced the Briton to slow and denied him the chance of going fastest.

The pair left the principality with talk of a feud simmering between them but they have been at pains to play down talk of broken relationships and frostiness since then.

VETTEL THIRDRed Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, will line up third in a promising boost for the German after a tough start to the season. While the Red Bulls have shown steady improvement, Vettel was more concerned about the cars in his rearview mirrors. “I think it was the maximum we could do, very close with the people behind, obviously half a second to the Mercedes in front,” said Vettel.

“I think four cars were within five or six hundredths of a second, so obviously I’m happy to be the quickest one of those.”

Mercedes-powered Williams enjoyed a strong qualifying session, with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas qualifying fourth ahead of team mate Felipe Massa in fifth. As good as the day was, the team’s head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley thought it could have been better. “I was expecting a bit more from both of them,” he told the BBC. “I thought we had the legs to be third today and we didn’t do it. So there’s a little bit of disappointment from that.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo will start on the third row in the other Red Bull while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the winner in Canada in 2006 and runner-up last year, will line up seventh. Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson spun his Caterham into the wall to bring an early end to the first session while Pastor Maldonado’s frustrating season continued.

The Lotus driver, who failed to start in Monaco, stopped with engine trouble during the first phase of qualifying and will start 17th.

The Venezuelan, who has yet to score a point since leaving Williams last year, also earned a reprimand from stewards for leaving the car without the steering wheel being in place. Mexican Esteban Gutierrez did not take part in qualifying after spinning his Sauber into the wall during the morning’s final practice session.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

Australia well placed for Chile: Cahill

Striker Tim Cahilll knows what it takes to get a result against tough opposition and feels the Socceroos are well placed heading into their World Cup match against Chile.

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The veteran was buoyed despite Australia’s 1-0 loss to Croatian in Salvador on Friday (Saturday AEST).

He admitted more work needed to be done at the front after Australia struggled to create any meaningful chances and he was left with not much supply at the point of attack.

But the 34-year-old feels the Socceroos’ disciplined display leaves them in a good place less than a week before they kick off their World Cup campaign against world No.13 side Chile on Friday (Saturday AEST).

“I’m really happy. I think defensively and structurally we really solid the goal they scored was an opportunist goal that basically just seemed to fall for them at the right time,” he said.

“But overall it was very positive. We played when we had to play, we weren’t really too bothered with the way they played, if anything I thought the way we set up was really structurally right and it will stand us in good stead for a team like Chile.

“Now we’ll work this week on the final third and hopefully get some more chances.”

Cahill said the Socceroos had held themselves well against their more fancied opponents, who boast several stars the likes of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric.

He felt the way Australia played and their improvement defensively would have made people take notice.

“When you look at the game, I think Croatia, they fielded a very top class team with world class strikers and players.

“We’re out there to make it difficult for other sides but at the same time I know that we would have affected them mentally with the way we played football.

“I suppose for us, we’re looking pretty good and overall maybe surprised a few people with our football.”

Shrieking Sharapova silences Halep in Paris

The seventh seed from Russia claimed her fifth grand slam title after Wimbledon 2004, the 2006 US Open, the 2008 Australian Open and her first Roland Garros title two years ago.

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Halep, who had not lost a set entering the final, put up a great fight but bowed out after three hours and two minutes – the longest women’s final in Paris since 1996.

Sharapova wrapped it up on her first match point when Halep could not return one of her opponent’s sizzling forehands.

“This is the toughest grand slam final I have ever played. I respect Simona a lot, I thought she played an unbelievable match today,” Sharapova said with smudged mascara under her eyes.

“I can’t believe it, seven or eight years ago I would not have thought that I would win more Roland Garros than any other grand slam.

“To think I won it twice… I’m so emotional now I can’t talk.”

The wily Romanian had forced a decider just as Sharapova seemed to have ended her resistance.

The Russian, however, had won the last 19 three-set matches she had played on clay since losing to Justine Henin in the third round at Roland Garros in 2010 and made it 20 with a characteristically gutsy display.

Halep, hoping to become the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam title after her manager Virginia Ruzici won at Roland Garros in 1978, broke in the first game of the match when Sharapova sent a backhand long despite having an open court at her disposal.

Sharapova unsettled Halep with her crosscourt shots but the Romanian held on for 2-0.

The Russian bombarded Halep with powerful forehands and managed to break back for 2-2 on her fourth chance when Halep’s crosscourt backhand went wide.

Sharapova’s third double fault gave Halep another break point, which the Russian saved with another forehand winner down the line before holding for 3-2 after four deuces.

The Russian broke for 4-2, went to 5-2 and then lost two games before taking the set on her opponent’s serve when Halep fired a crosscourt forehand wide.

Sharapova won the first game of the second set to love and broke in the second with the contest seemingly heading for a swift conclusion.

Halep would not give up, however, and broke back by forcing Sharapova to net a backhand as the crowd roared “Simona, Simona”.

They exchanged four breaks in a row as the set went into a tiebreak and the clock ticked past the two-hour mark. Halep went 5-3 down but then scored four points in a row to send the match into a deciding set.

Sharapova saw off two break points in a hotly contested fourth game and went on to break Halep’s serve screaming “Davai!” (come on), only to double fault yet again as the Romanian levelled for 4-4.

In a third set where the serve counted for little, Sharapova broke to love to move one service game from the title and fell to her knees in celebration as Halep sent a looping backhand wide.

“It’s my first grand slam page, emotionally it’s difficult,” said Halep, last year’s most improved player.

“I hope there will be many more but this one will be special for me all my life. Congrats Maria you’re a great champion.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alan Baldwin)