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Rosetta: Comet Chasing For Over 10-years
Rosetta is so inspiring to me. Chasing down Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for the past 10-years and carrying Philae.
Being someone who loves looking up on a clear evening, marvelling at the wonders of the Cosmos, it always inspires me when the likes of NASA and their European counterparts ESA launch daring missions into outer space.
There have been some amazing ventures so far - too many to list them all in fact - but a few of my personal favourites have been little Sojourner who became the first rover on Mars and Cassini that has shown us the wonders of the Saturn rings and moons. I'm also looking forward to New Horizons thundering past Pluto in 2015.
But Rosetta has always been one of my favourites. The mission briefing goes something like "slingshot around the inner planets so you can catch a comet then orbit the big, dirty snowball and put a lander on it with high definition cameras. Oh and if you can sample it too, then that'd be cool".
Ok, so ESA didn't phrase it quite like that, but you know what I mean. It's bold ... so bold that you'd expect it to fail ... but did we really think that we could land a nuclear tank on Mars using a rocket-powered sky crane? The amazing science undertaken by the Curiosity rover has proven that the bolder the mission, the better chance we have of success.
So we're at a vital stage for the Rosetta probe and little Philae. Controllers have to listen for it coming out of hibernation and sending an "I'm awake" signal. If Rosetta doesn't wake up on its own, then they can send commands to wake it up forcibly, but wouldn't it be great for it to do it on its own, to schedule?
Once all systems have been checked out and working, a series of powered manoeuvres will position Rosetta within 10km of the comet and when controllers deem it safe, it will release Philae to descend to the surface and tether itself into position. This should all happen by late September 2014.
Seriously, how awesome is that? Putting a lander on the surface of a comet ... a dirty ball of ice and snow that has been drifting through our solar system for millions of years! We'll get to see pictures from the surface, relayed up to Rosetta then onto earth and the lander can even take samples to learn the chemical make-up of the comet.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA sums it all up nicely: "Rosetta is a unique mission - unique technologically, unique scientifically and unique philosophically, because comets may be at the origin of who we are."
And who wouldn't want to find out more about the origins of the human race? Many scientists believe the Earth's water arrived on comets during the early formation of our home planet ... who's to say life didn't arrive that way either?
I shall be watching the amazing Rosetta probe and it's plucky little lander Philae with a lot of excitement in 2014. If all goes to plan, the show's going to be absolutely awesome!
Love, light and logic ...
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