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The European Space Agency Rosetta Mission is a cometary mission which will launch in 2003 in an Ariane 5 rocket. After a long cruise during which the spacecraft will get 2 gravity assists from Earth and one from Mars, the spacecraft will take measurements during 2 asteroid flybys. The spacecraft will slowly orbit the comet 46P/Wirtanen, to examine the dust and gases coming from the comet. A lander will hop around on the surface and drill into the surface. The mission goals include the measuremnets of the density of the comet, resolution the of the question of the dust to ice ratio, investigation of the cause of the low albedo (is the interior also dark?), why some regions are highly active, and what the composition is of the comet and whether the organics are relevant to the question of life on Earth.

Mission Timeline

  • Jan 2003 - Launch and Commissioning
  • 2005 - Mars gravity assist
  • 2006 - Earth gravity assist; Mimistrobell fly-by
  • 2007 - Earth gravity assist
  • 2008 - Rodari fly-by
  • 2011 - rendezvous maneuver
  • 2012-2013 - Near comet operations

IRTF Mission Support

  • Observations of the nucleus physical characteristics: size, albedo, rotation is neede for planning of photographc aspects of mission. (simultaneous thermal IR and optical)
  • Knowledge of the dust environment is needed to allow for proper protection of the spacecraft.

Visits since 10/99. Last Updated on December 15, 2001
Karen. Meech, Institute for Astronomy, UH