Comets are an extraordinary occurence on the night sky. Consisting of unprocessed material of the early solar system, they provide important indications of its formation. The European spacecraft Rosetta will rendezvous the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in may 2014 in order to make measurements concerning its physical and chemical properties, the structure of the nucleus and its interaction with the solar wind. Therefore, Rosetta will orbit the comet in a distance of a few kilometers. Additionally, the lander PHILEA will be deployed onto the nucleus to perform the first experiments on the surface of a comet. Together with Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the orbiter and the lander will approach the sun in summer 2015 investigating the comet's increasing activity as an "in-situ" measurement.
The IGEP participates in the Rosetta mission with an experiment both on the orbiter (RPC) as on the lander (ROMAP). That means, that both experiments were partly developped at the IGEP and that scientists at the IGEP are the PIs of the experiments.
The mission was launched on march 2, 2004 by an Ariane-5 launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guayana. During its long way to 67p/Churymov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta will swing-by the planet Mars and fly-by the asteroids 2867 Steins and 21 Lutetia and study them from greater distance.
Artist impression of the spacecraft (© ESA)
|First Earth gravity assist||March 2005|
|Mars gravity assist||February 2007|
|Second Earth gravity assist||November 2007|
|Asteroid Steins flyby||September 2008|
|Third Earth gravity assist||November 2009|
|Asteroid Lutetia flyby||July 2010|
|Enter hibernation||July 2011|
|Exit hibernation||January 2014|
|Rendezvous manoeuvre||May 2014|
|Start Global Mapping||August 2014|
|Lander Delivery||November 2014|
|Perihelion Passage||August 2015|
|End of Mission||December 2015|
The mission was named after the "Rosetta Stone", found in 1799 in Egypt, which helped the linguists Champollion and Young for the first time to unravel the hieroglyphs. And just as this stone contributed in understanding the civilization of the ancient Egypt, the Rosetta space mission is intended to disclose the last secrets of the oldest inhabitants of our solar system: the comets. Consisting of precursor material of the solar system, comets material has hardly changed for the last 4,6 billion years. The study of comets offers therefore an unique possibility to look back in time and to explore the provenience of our solar system.