content 18-November-2017 16:08:16

Summary

Rosetta is a cornerstone mission to chase, go into orbit around, and land on a comet. It is studying the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with a combination of remote sensing and in situ measurements. The spacecraft arrived at the comet on 6 August 2014 following a 10-year journey through the Solar System. Between August and November, the spacecraft orbited the comet and gathered data to characterise the environment and the comet nucleus. On 12 November 2014, Rosetta's lander Philae was deployed to the surface. Philae carries a suite of instruments for imaging and sampling the comet nucleus. The Rosetta orbiter will track the comet through perihelion (August 2015), examining its behaviour before, during and after.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 3 August 2014.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The mission was first considered in the late 1970s and developed from a sample-return plan to the plan for a lander. It was approved in November 1993 by ESA’s Science Programme Committee. The original mission target had been comet 46P/Wirtanen, but this was changed to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko when it was clear that the launch would take place in 2004.

The spacecraft was launched from Kourou aboard an Ariane 5G+ on 2 March 2004. It required four gravity assists for its journey, one by Mars and three by Earth. Rosetta had already flown by the asteroids 2867 Steins (in 2008) and 21 Lutetia (in 2010), before entering deep space hibernation in June 2011.

Rosetta achieved a number of major milestones in 2014: Following a planned exit from hibernation on 20 January, all of the spacecraft's instruments were checked as it continued on its journey to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The first science results were obtained even before the spacecraft arrived at the comet on 6 August 2014. On 12 November 2014, Rosetta's lander Philae was deployed to the surface. Operations continue throughout 2015, with many new scientific results being reported, as well as operational highlights such as the close flyby on 14 February.

Here are the key dates of the Rosetta mission:
 

Event Nominal date
Launch 2 March 2004
First Earth gravity assist 4 March 2005
Mars gravity assist 25 February 2007
Second Earth gravity assist 13 November 2007
Asteroid Steins flyby 5 September 2008
Third Earth gravity assist 13 November 2009
Asteroid Lutetia flyby 10 July 2010
Enter deep space hibernation 8 June 2011
Exit deep space hibernation 20 January 2014
Rendezvous manoeuvres begin 7 May 2014
Arrive at comet  6 August 2014
Start global mapping 10 September 2014
Lander delivery 12 November 2014
Perihelion passage 13 August 2015
End of mission September 2016

 

This animation tracks Rosetta's journey through the Solar System, using gravity slingshots from Earth and Mars to reach its final destination: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Copyright: ESA. Click here for video details.

 


Last Update: 22 March 2017

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