[meteorite-list] NASA Instrument Aboard Rosetta Spacecraft Returns First Science Results

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2014 16:58:08 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201409042358.s84Nw8Q0009071_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

September 4, 2014
NASA Instrument aboard European Spacecraft Returns First Science Results

A NASA instrument aboard the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta
orbiter has successfully made its first delivery of science data from comet

The instrument, named Alice, began mapping the comet's surface last month,
recording the first far-ultraviolet light spectra of the comet's surface.
 From the data, the Alice team discovered the comet is unusually dark --
darker than charcoal-black -- when viewed in ultraviolet wavelengths. Alice
also detected both hydrogen and oxygen in the comet's coma, or atmosphere.

Rosetta scientists also discovered the comet's surface so far shows no
large water-ice patches. The team expected to see ice patches on the
comet's surface because it is too far away for the sun's warmth to turn
its water into vapor.

"We're a bit surprised at just how unreflective the comet's surface is
and how little evidence of exposed water-ice it shows," said Alan Stern,
Alice principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,

Alice is probing the origin, composition and workings of comet
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, to gather sensitive, high-resolution insights that
cannot be obtained by either ground-based or Earth-orbiting observation. It
has more than 1,000 times the data-gathering capability of instruments flown
a generation ago, yet it weighs less than nine pounds (four kilograms) and
draws just four watts of power. The instrument is one of two full instruments
on board Rosetta that are funded by NASA. The agency also provided portions
of two other instrument suites.

Other U.S. contributions aboard the spacecraft are the Microwave Instrument
for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES), part of the
Rosetta Plasma Consortium Suite, and the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer
(DFMS) electronics package for the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion
Neutral Analysis (ROSINA). They are part of a suite of 11 total science
instruments aboard Rosetta.

MIRO is designed to provide data on how gas and dust leave the surface of the
nucleus to form the coma and tail that gives comets their intrinsic beauty.
IES is part of a suite of five instruments to analyze the plasma environment
of the comet, particularly the coma.

To obtain the orbital velocity necessary to reach its comet target, the
Rosetta spacecraft took advantage of four gravity assists (three from Earth,
one from Mars) and an almost three-year period of deep space hibernation,
waking up in January 2014 in time to prepare for its rendezvous with

Rosetta also carries a lander, Philae, which will drop to the comet's
surface in November 2014.

The comet observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and
evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in
providing Earth with water, and perhaps even life.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA.
Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German
Aerospace Center in Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research
in G??ttingen; French National Space Agency in Paris; and the Italian Space
Agency in Rome.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the
U.S. contribution to the Rosetta mission for the agency's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO instrument and hosts its
principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute,
located in San Antonio and Boulder, developed Rosetta's IES and Alice
instruments and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and
Alan Stern (Alice).

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:


More information about Rosetta is available at:



Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Maria Martinez
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.
mmartinez at swri.org

Markus Bauer
European Space Agency, Noordwijk, Netherlands
markus.bauer at esa.int
Received on Thu 04 Sep 2014 07:58:08 PM PDT

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