Indian Space Station

Farewell 'J', Hello Agilkia

Farewell 'J', Hello Agilkia

 4 November 2014

The site where Rosetta’s Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November now has a name: Agilkia.

The landing site, previously known as ‘Site J’, is named for Agilkia Island, an island on the Nile River in the south of Egypt. A complex of Ancient Egyptian buildings, including the famous Temple of Isis, was moved to Agilkia from the island of Philae when the latter was flooded during the building of the Aswan dams last century.



The name was selected by a jury comprising members of the Philae Lander Steering Committee as part of a public competition run 16–22 October by ESA and the German, French and Italian space agencies.

Agilkia was one of the most popular entries – it was proposed by over 150 participants. The committee selected Alexandre Brouste
from France as the overall winner. As a prize, Mr Brouste will be invited to ESA’s Space Operations Control Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to follow the landing live.

Although perhaps not quite as complicated as navigating Rosetta and Philae towards the comet, the task of choosing a name was by no means simple. More than 8000 entries from 135 countries were received in one week, showing great creativity and cultural diversity.

“The decision was very tough,” says Prof. Felix Huber of the DLR German Aerospace Center, chair of the Steering Committee.

“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 onomatopoeiac words.

The entries covered a tremendous range of themes, from abstract concepts to the names of places on Earth. As with the winning entry, many suggestions echoed the Egyptian origins of Rosetta and Philae, named in recognition of milestones in decoding hieroglyphics, the sacred writing system of ancient Egypt.

Many names dated back to the history of our planet’s exploration, as those journeys into the unknown are the natural forebears of Rosetta and Philae. Mythological names from all over the globe were also proposed, including gods and goddesses of water, fertility, life and creation, relating closely to the fundamental themes investigated by the mission.

Other names were drawn from ancient history and prehistory, while others recalled milestones in the history of science, particularly the history of our understanding of comets.



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