Rosetta Status Report - May 2006
22 May 2006 15:30Mission Status
The spacecraft continues to be operated in quiet cruise mode with, in general, one tracking pass per week. In March the Payload Passive Checkout was performed successfully and the evaluation of the data by the instrument teams confirms the nominal status of the orbiter instruments and the Lander.
Also in March, upon the request of the OSIRIS team, a special observation sequence of asteroid Steins, Rosetta's first asteroid flyby target, was included into the operations. This activity was successfully completed and the first analysis of the data and the derived light curve show excellent agreement with those from the ground-based observations performed by the team of Rosetta's Interdisciplinary Scientist for asteroid science. Another science activity is planned around 6 July for the Plasma Suite, when Rosetta comes within 0.06 AU of the ion tail of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova. This observation will be performed during the second Near Sun Hibernation Phase, which is a major step in preparing for the Deep Space Hibernation in 2012.
Operations and Archiving
The Rosetta Science Operations team has been preparing for the Mars Flyby (end of February 2007) in close cooperation with the Mission Control Team and the Experiment Teams. This will be the next major milestone for the mission and will be an excellent opportunity for cross calibration of instruments with Mars Express and for performing genuine observations. However, as the flyby geometry imposes considerable restrictions on the operation of the spacecraft and the payload, a careful iteration of the timelines is required very early to optimize the science return. The actual flyby phase will be preceded by an Active Payload checkout period.
During its 20th Science Working Team Meeting on 13/14 March at ESTEC the Rosetta team together with the former Giotto team celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Giotto flyby at Halley. A special session with review talks that addressed the achievements of the mission and its importance in our present understanding of comets, gave an impressive account of the place this unique mission has in the history of planetary exploration and of ESA's science programme.