Rosetta is a space probe designed to rendezvous with the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, perform flybys of two asteroids (2867 Šteins and 21 Lutetia), and carry lander Philae until its landing on 67P. This page records a detailed timeline of this mission.
Rosetta was a space probe built by the European Space Agency launched on 2 March 2004. Along with Philae, its lander module, Rosetta performed a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P). During its journey to the comet, the spacecraft flew three times by Earth, by Mars, and the asteroids 21 Lutetia and 2867 Šteins. It was launched as the third cornerstone mission of the ESA's Horizon 2000 programme, after SOHO / Cluster and XMM-Newton.
A space probe is a robotic spacecraft that does not orbit Earth, but instead, explores further into outer space. A space probe may approach the Moon; travel through interplanetary space; flyby, orbit, or land on other planetary bodies; or enter interstellar space.
A comet is an icy, small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, warms and begins to release gases, a process called outgassing. This produces a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind acting upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei range from a few hundred metres to tens of kilometres across and are composed of loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles. The coma may be up to 15 times the Earth's diameter, while the tail may stretch one astronomical unit. If sufficiently bright, a comet may be seen from the Earth without the aid of a telescope and may subtend an arc of 30° across the sky. Comets have been observed and recorded since ancient times by many cultures.
Mars Express is a space exploration mission being conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Mars Express mission is exploring the planet Mars, and is the first planetary mission attempted by the agency. "Express" originally referred to the speed and efficiency with which the spacecraft was designed and built. However "Express" also describes the spacecraft's relatively short interplanetary voyage, a result of being launched when the orbits of Earth and Mars brought them closer than they had been in about 60,000 years.
Ariane 5 is a European heavy-lift launch vehicle that is part of the Ariane rocket family, an expendable launch system designed by the French government space agency Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES). It is used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or low Earth orbit (LEO).
The Guiana Space Centre is a French and European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana, a region of France in South America. Operational since 1968, it is particularly suitable as a location for a spaceport. It fulfills the two major geographical requirements of such a site:
Kourou is a commune in French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America. In addition to being an administrative district in French Guiana, it is also the main town in that district.
Central European Time (CET), used in most parts of Europe and a few North African countries, is a standard time which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The time offset from UTC can be written as UTC+01:00. The same standard time, UTC+01:00, is also known as Middle European Time and under other names like Berlin Time, Warsaw Time and Romance Standard Time (RST), Paris Time or Rome Time.
The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) serves as the main mission control centre for the European Space Agency (ESA) and is located in Darmstadt, Germany. ESOC's primary function is the operation of unmanned spacecraft on behalf of ESA and the launch and early orbit phases (LEOP) of ESA and third-party missions. The Centre is also responsible for a range of operations-related activities within ESA and in cooperation with ESA's industry and international partners, including ground systems engineering, software development, flight dynamics and navigation, development of mission control tools and techniques and space debris studies.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
The solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona. This plasma mostly consists of electrons, protons and alpha particles with kinetic energy between 0.5 and 10 keV. Embedded within the solar-wind plasma is the interplanetary magnetic field. The solar wind varies in density, temperature and speed over time and over solar latitude and longitude. Its particles can escape the Sun's gravity because of their high energy resulting from the high temperature of the corona, which in turn is a result of the coronal magnetic field.
OSIRIS is the main scientific imaging system on the orbiter of the ESA spacecraft Rosetta. It was built by a consortium led by the German Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.
Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered and is the largest known plutoid.
The COmet Nucleus TOUR (CONTOUR) was a NASA Discovery-class space probe that failed shortly after its July 2002 launch. It had as its primary objective close flybys of two comet nuclei with the possibility of a flyby of a third known comet or an as-yet-undiscovered comet.
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space that was launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas II AS launch vehicle on December 2, 1995 to study the Sun. SOHO has also discovered over 3,000 comets. It began normal operations in May 1996. It is a joint project of international cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Originally planned as a two-year mission, SOHO continues to operate after over 20 years in space: the mission is extended until the end of 2020 with a likely extension until 2022. As of 2019, only the LASCO coronagraph is still routinely producing data, with the other instruments all having been switched off.
67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is a Jupiter-family comet, originally from the Kuiper belt, with a current orbital period of 6.45 years, a rotation period of approximately 12.4 hours and a maximum velocity of 135,000 km/h. Churyumov–Gerasimenko is approximately 4.3 by 4.1 km at its longest and widest dimensions. It was first observed on photographic plates in 1969 by Soviet astronomers Klim Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko, after whom it is named. It came to perihelion on 13 August 2015.
46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was the original target for close investigation by the Rosetta spacecraft, planned by the European Space Agency, but an inability to meet the launch window caused Rosetta to be sent to 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko instead. It belongs to the Jupiter family of comets, all of which have aphelia between 5 and 6 AU. Its diameter is estimated at 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi).
Philae is a robotic European Space Agency lander that accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft until it separated to land on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, ten years and eight months after departing Earth. On 12 November 2014, Philae touched down on the comet, but it bounced when its anchoring harpoons failed to deploy and a thruster designed to hold the probe to the surface did not fire. After bouncing off the surface twice, Philae achieved the first-ever "soft" (nondestructive) landing on a comet nucleus, although the lander's final, uncontrolled touchdown left it in a non-optimal location and orientation.
The coma is the nebulous envelope around the nucleus of a comet, formed when the comet passes close to the Sun on its highly elliptical orbit; as the comet warms, parts of it sublime. This gives a comet a "fuzzy" appearance when viewed in telescopes and distinguishes it from stars. The word coma comes from the Greek "kome" (κόμη), which means "hair" and is the origin of the word comet itself.
Venus Express (VEX) was the first Venus exploration mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Launched in November 2005, it arrived at Venus in April 2006 and began continuously sending back science data from its polar orbit around Venus. Equipped with seven scientific instruments, the main objective of the mission was the long term observation of the Venusian atmosphere. The observation over such long periods of time had never been done in previous missions to Venus, and was key to a better understanding of the atmospheric dynamics. It was hoped that such studies can contribute to an understanding of atmospheric dynamics in general, while also contributing to an understanding of climate change on Earth. ESA concluded the mission in December 2014.
The nucleus is the solid, central part of a comet, popularly termed a dirty snowball or an icy dirtball. A cometary nucleus is composed of rock, dust, and frozen gases. When heated by the Sun, the gases sublimate and produce an atmosphere surrounding the nucleus known as the coma. The force exerted on the coma by the Sun's radiation pressure and solar wind cause an enormous tail to form, which points away from the Sun. A typical comet nucleus has an albedo of 0.04. This is blacker than coal, and may be caused by a covering of dust.
The Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System (MIDAS) is one of several instruments on the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission which studied in-situ the environment around the active comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it flew into the inner Solar System. MIDAS is an atomic force microscope (AFM) designed to collect dust particles emitted from the comet, and then scan them with a very sharp needle-like tip to determine their 3D structure, size and texture with very high resolution.
Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus responsible for defence and aerospace products and services. The division was formed in January 2014 during the corporate restructuring of European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), and comprises the former Airbus Military, Astrium, and Cassidian divisions. It is the world's second largest space company after Boeing and one of the top ten defence companies in the world.
Susan McKenna-Lawlor is an Irish astrophysicist. She is professor of experimental physics at Maynooth University.
Castalia is a proposed mission concept for a robotic spacecraft to explore the main-belt comet 7968 Elst–Pizarro and make the first in situ measurements of water in the asteroid belt, and thus, help solve the mystery of the origin of Earth's water. The lead is Colin Snodgrass, from The Open University in UK.
The Comet Interceptor is a robotic spacecraft mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) planned for a 2028 launch. The spacecraft will be "parked" at the Sun-Earth L2 point and wait for up to three years for a long-period comet to flyby at a reachable distance.