Catching a Comet: the Rosetta Mission

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This Catalyst article looks at the Rosetta mission: to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where it will study the nucleus of the comet and its environment for nearly two years, and land a probe on its surface. The article also describes how gravity assists, also known as slingshot manoeuvres, are used to speed up the spacecraft and to allow it to achieve the correct orbit to rendezvous with the comet.

Since its launch in 2004, Rosetta has made three flybys of Earth and one of Mars to help it on course to its rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, encountering asteroids Steins and Lutetia along the way. Once Rosetta has caught up with Comet 67P it will orbit the comet to observe the light emitted from the nucleus and coma and examine gas and dust particles given off by the interaction between the solar wind and the comet. If successful, the probe Philae will be the first ever to land on the surface of a comet and take in-situ measurements. Scientists will be keen to compare the results with that of other cometary missions and with ground-based measurements of comets.

The article is from Catalyst: Secondary Science Review 2014, Volume 24, Issue 4.

Catalyst is a science magazine for students aged 14-19 years. Annual subscriptions to print copies of the magazine can be purchased from Mindsets.


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