Header Picture: ESA/Rosetta – August 19, 2014 Image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by NAVCAM at a distance of 79 km. Source.
Rosetta is a space probe built by the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko to better understand the origin and evolution of the solar system. After a 10 year journey, 200 scientists in suspense and €1.3 billion (1,88 billion CAD$) spent, Rosetta joined on August 6, 2014 the comet and becomes the first spacecraft to achieve such a scientific accomplishment. The adventure is far from over and will, at least, continue until end 2015.
•November 1993: Approval of Rosetta project
•March 2, 2004: launch of Rosetta by an Ariane rocket, from the space center in Kourou (French Guyana)
•September 5, 2008: Rosetta passes close to the asteroïd Steins collecting a large number of images
•July 10, 2010: Hovering of the asteroid Lutetia
•From June 2011 to January 2014: Space hibernation scheduled for two and a half years in order to conserve its energy
•August 6, 2014: Rosetta reaches its destination after a long trip of 6.4 billion kilometers (3,2 billion miles). It is currently at a distance of less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from its target and may start jockeying for position in orbit around the comet.
Rosetta’s mission is to parse the comet 67P. Why? Comets are the most primitive blocks in our solar system and they almost have not changed since the time of their creation. They are composed of basic materials that were present at the creation of the earth and for that reason they are the best witnesses of the creation process of planets around the Sun. Some theories even defend the idea that comets could have contributed to the emergence of life on earth by bringing water and organic molecules.
So, after this long journey, Rosetta’s mission is far from over… With the help of its 11 onboard instruments, it will now explore the comet, its nucleus, structure, density, temperature and chemical composition. These analyzes may help to reveal the mysteries of the origin of life on earth!
The next challenges
The ESA has already started studying hundreds of pictures and datas, but the most important to come is the release of Philae. Philae is a small robotic laboratory, the size of a refrigerator (100 kilograms – 221 pounds), which will land on the comet on November 11, 2014.
Five sites have now been identified by scientists for landing. Rosetta is getting closer and closer to the comet (20 to 30 kilometers – 18 miles) to refine and classify the selection. The site must be able to maintain communication between Philae and Rosetta, to let a safely landing and providing adequate illumination for charging Philae’s batteries. The final site should be known by mid-October.
Depending on the activity of the comet, Rosetta will approach within 10 kilometers (6 Miles) of the surface of the core and even within 2 kilometers (1,5 mile) on November 11, 2014.
This date was not chosen by coincidence, but because, afterwards, the comet will follow a trajectory that will bring it back to the Sun, causing major degassing that would make this even trickier. The Rosetta Osiris camera will expose at this instant, some details of the landscape as small as 10 centimeters (around 4 inches).
For more information:
You can track the position of Rosetta in real time and in 3D:
We will keep you posted on Rosetta’s coming adventures… Who knows, Rosetta, maybe will help us unlock the long-awaited secrets!