[meteorite-list] Farewell Rosetta: ESA Mission to End on Comet Surface

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:30:09 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201609292230.u8TMU9aW002649_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Farewell Rosetta: ESA Mission to End on Comet Surface
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 29, 2016

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta mission will come to a dramatic
end on Friday, Sept. 30, with a controlled touchdown of the spacecraft
on a region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko known for active pits that
spew comet dust into space. Confirmation of the end of mission is expected
at about 4:20 a.m. PDT (7:20 a.m. EDT). ESA is ending the mission due
to the spacecraft's ever-increasing distance from the sun, which has resulted
in significantly reduced solar power with which to operate the vehicle
and its instruments.

Rosetta is an international mission led by ESA with instruments provided
by its member states, and additional support and instruments provided
by NASA.

"The European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission is a magnificent demonstration
of what excellent mission design, execution, and international collaboration
can achieve," said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Being neighbors with a comet
for more than two years has given the world invaluable insight into these
beautiful nomads of deep space. We congratulate ESA on its many accomplishments
during this daring mission."

The final hours of descent will enable Rosetta to make many once-in-a-lifetime
measurements, including analyzing gas and dust closer to the surface than
ever possible before, and taking very high-resolution images of the comet
nucleus. The images will include views of the open pits of the Ma'at region,
where the spacecraft is expected to make its controlled impact. Ma'at
is home to several active pits more than 330 feet (100 meters) in diameter
and 160 to 200 feet (50 to 60 meters) deep.

The walls of the pits exhibit intriguing lumpy structures about 3 feet
wide (1 meter wide) called "goose bumps." Scientists believe those structures
could be the signatures of early cometesimals that assembled to create
the comet in the early phases of solar system formation. Rosetta will
attempt to get its closest look yet at these fascinating structures on
Sept. 30, when the spacecraft will target a point adjacent to a 430-feet-wide
(130-meter), well-defined pit that the mission team has informally named
Deir el-Medina.

"Rosetta will keep giving us data to the very end," said Bonnie Buratti,
project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta project from NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "NASA's three instruments aboard Rosetta
will be among those collecting data all the way down."

Those three NASA science instruments are: the Microwave Instrument for
Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO); an ultraviolet spectrometer called Alice; and
the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES). They are part of a suite of 11 science
instruments on the orbiter.

MIRO was designed to provide data on how gas and dust leave the surface
of the nucleus to form the coma and tail that give comets their intrinsic
beauty. Studying the surface temperature and evolution of the coma and
tail provides information on how the comet evolves as it approaches and
leaves the vicinity of the sun. MIRO has the ability to study water, carbon
monoxide, ammonia and methanol.

Alice, an ultraviolet spectrometer, analyzes gases in the comet's coma
and tail; measures how fast the comet produces water, carbon monoxide
and carbon dioxide (clues to the surface composition of the nucleus);
and measures argon levels. These measurements help determine the temperature
of the solar system when the nucleus formed more than 4.6 billion years

The Ion and Electron Sensor is part of a suite of five instruments that
analyzes the plasma environment of the comet, particularly the coma. The
instrument measures the charged particles in the sun's outer atmosphere,
or solar wind, as they interact with the gas flowing out from the comet.

NASA provided part of the electronics package for the Double Focusing
Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer
for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument. U.S. scientists also
partnered on several non-U.S. instruments and were involved in seven of
the mission's 26 instrument collaborations. NASA's Deep Space Network
is supporting ESA's Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and
navigation. NASA also provided autonomous science operations planning
software, which helped in planning science operations and navigation support.

The Rosetta mission was launched in 2004 and arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
on Aug. 6, 2014. It's the first mission in history to rendezvous with
a comet and escort it as it orbits the sun. On Nov. 4, 2014, a smaller
lander named Philae -- which had been deployed from the Rosetta mothership
-- touched down on the comet and bounced several times before alighting
on the surface. Philae obtained the first images taken from a comet's
surface and sent back valuable scientific data for several days.

"It will be hard to see that last transmission from Rosetta come to an
end," said Art Chmielewski of JPL, project manager for the U.S. Rosetta.
"But whatever melancholy we will be experiencing will be more than made
up for in the elation that we will feel to have been part of this truly
historic mission of exploration."

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and
NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander was provided by a consortium led by the
German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System
Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian
Space Agency, Rome. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the
U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate
in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO and hosts its principal investigator,
Mark Hofstadter. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder,
Colorado), developed the Rosetta orbiter's IES and Alice instruments and
hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern

For more information on the US instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:


More information about Rosetta is available at:


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

Received on Thu 29 Sep 2016 06:30:09 PM PDT

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