ESA ROSETTA SPACECRAFT IS READY TO WAKEUP AND CHASE DOWN A COMET.
Illustration By: European Space Agency (ESA): CLICK illustration for larger size and see below for links and information.
With ESA’s GAIA mission well on its way there’s yet another incredible ESA mission that’s been sleeping in the shadows, just waiting for its chance to awaken and chase down a comet. What IS the Rosetta mission? Let’s check it out.
Launched way back on March 2, 2004 (Almost 10 years ago) on an Ariane5 rocket from French Guiana, most have forgotten or didn’t even know of this spacecraft careening through the solar system. Like astronauts in a sci-fi movie, Rosetta has been in hibernation since June 8 of 2011 but that’s going to change when it’s set to be awakened on January 20, 2014.
The mission is comprised of two vehicles. The larger Rosetta space probe which consists of 11 science instruments and a robotic lander named Philae which carries an additional 10 science instruments. ROSETTA gets its name from the Rosetta stone as the mission intends to help determine what the solar system looked like before planets formed. The PHILAE lander is named after the Nile Island, Plilae; which is where an obelisk was found that helped to decipher the Rosetta stone.
Rosetta’s mission is to rendezvous, land and perform a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as part of ESA’s Horizon 2000 Cornerstone missions. The Philae lander will then ride the comet through perihelion. Thus far Rosetta has successfully conducted three Earth fly-bys, 1 Mars fly-by and two asteroid fly-bys……let’s check out a timeline of past and upcoming events!
On March 4, 2005; Rosetta executed its first planned fly-by of Earth, using the magnetic field of Earth and Moon to calibrate its instruments. Passing only 1954.7km above Earth, the fly-by was captured by amateur astronomers.
July 4, 2005; Imaging instruments onboard incredibly captured the collision between Comet Tempel 1 and the Deep Impact probe.
February 25, 2007; Rosetta conducted a Mars fly-by to change direction en route to its second Earth fly-by. In doing so, Philae used its ROMAP instrument to measure the Martian magnetic atmosphere, while Rosetta’s OSIRIS instrument took many photos of the Red Planet’s surface.
November 8, 2007; While on its way to a second Earth fly-by Rosetta actually became an asteroid as it was misidentified. An astronomer at the Catalina Sky Survey discovered the spacecraft and misidentified it as a near-Earth asteroid and it was actually given the designation 2007VN84. After calculating the trajectory numbers it was shown to be on course to make a very close Earth fly-by on November 13 (Which it was); and for a short time it was labeled as a possible Earth impactor. That was until astronomer Denis Denisenko recognized the trajectory to be matching that of Rosetta almost exactly….thus, spoiling all of our fun.
November 13, 2007; Second Earth fly-by completed…….no asteroid impact reported.
September 5, 2008; Rosetta performed a fly-by of asteroid 2867 Steins as it passed the Main Asteroid Belt at a distance of 800km.
November 13, 2009; The third and final Earth fly-by for gravitational assist was conducted at an altitude of 2481 km.
March 16, 2010; Rosetta observed the dust tail of asteroid P/2010 A2. Data combined with Hubble confirmed that P/2010 A2 was not a comet as had been previously thought, but an asteroid. The dust tail was likely formed by a previous impact event.
July 10, 2010; Fly-by and photographs taken of asteroid 21 Lutetia.
June 8, 2011; Placed into deep space hibernation.
January 20, 2014; Will be taken out of deep space hibernation.
May, 2014; Crucial comet rendezvous maneuver.
August 2014; Arrive at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
November 2014; Philae to land on comet.
August 13, 2015; Comet reaches perihelion and subsequently ends the mission?
ESA Rosetta page: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta
ESA Science Rosetta page: http://sci.esa.int/rosetta/
ESA Rosetta BLOG: http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/
Rosetta Overview: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta_overview
NASA JPL Rosetta page: https://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov/
Science at NASA Rosetta page: http://science.nasa.gov/missions/rosetta/