Rosetta: mission to land on a comet

By Phil Plait | March 30, 2012 11:00 am

In 2014, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe will enter orbit around a comet — the first time this will have ever been done — and then drop a lander on it — and oh yeah, that’s the first time this will have ever been done, too.

I’m pretty excited about this mission, and NASA and ESA have put together this really well-done video explaining the mission and what it’ll do:

I found this on the Rosetta Blog which has been a great source of info over the years. Rosetta has already been a very successful mission without even having reached its target yet: it’s swung by Mars, took stunning closeup images of the asteroid Lutetia, flew past another asteroid called Steins and got nifty pix of that, and also flew past Earth — twice! three times! — to steal some of our orbital energy to propel it on its way… and snapped one of my favorite pictures of Earth ever taken (seriously, click that link; have you ever seen a crescent Earth that beautiful?).

And yet all that is a prelude to what’s coming in a little over two year.

And if you can’t wait, the folks at JPL created a game called Comet Quest (for iPad and iPhone) where you control the Rosetta probe as it orbits the comet. You have to deploy the lander, identify and avoid hazards (like jets and rubble from the comet), an communicate with Earth to transmit your results. I played it for a while on the iPad and I have to admit it was fun. Give it a shot!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space
MORE ABOUT: ESA, Rosetta

Comments (17)

  1. kuoirad

    Why am I reminded of 2061: Odyssey Three? ;)

  2. Do they plan on putting the game out for android platforms?

  3. Navneeth

    Rosetta flew past Earth — twice! — to steal some of our orbital energy to propel it on its way… and snapped one of my favorite pictures of Earth ever taken

    That was my desktop wallpaper for such a long time!

    One of my all-time favourite astro-shots along with that of Jupiter from Cassini.

  4. Bigfoot

    Yes, I thought we had lost some of our orbital momentum. Of course, I’m used to it now.

  5. Melle

    Actually 3 Earth Flybys… March 2005, November 2007, November 2009.
    And for the record, only the first one showed ‘The Anomaly’.

  6. Matt A.

    NASA REALLY needs a new narrator for their videos. Dude’s painful to listen to.

  7. JMW

    <sarcasm>
    Global warming isn’t caused by human emissions of CO2 – it’s caused by the earth getting closer to the sun from all the space probes stealing our orbital momentum!

    </sarcasm>

  8. MHS

    Am I the only one who finds it strange that NASA is putting all this effort in creating animations and games of a European research mission? Especially after blatantly pulling out of their joint Mars program…

  9. Hah…30 years later and technology has progressed at unprecedented speed and we get … a Lunar Lander (Wikipedia) game. :D

  10. Keith Hearn

    I read this and thought “Wait a minute, didn’t a Japanese probe already do that?” But I was mis-remembering. The Hayabusa probe sampled an asteroid, not a comet. I’m posting this in case anyone else is thinking the same thing.

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    Superluminous (beyond merely brilliant) clip and mission – or missions. Thanks. :-)

    Given the Cassini-Huygens mission name for that combined orbiter/lander spacecraft, I’m wondering why they are not calling this Rosetta-Philae – I guess Rosetta is shorter and less of a mouthful when their already landing on a comet that’s hard to pronounce?

    (Hint- Chu-ryu-mov Gera-si-menko with ‘ryu’ in the middle of the first word and ‘Ger’ as in ‘Geronimo’ at the start of the second – but I could be mispronouncing it myself. Anyone else know exactly how its said or have mnenonics for it?)

    ..engaged in its high-speed chase while fast asleep ..

    Don’t try this at home – or on the roads! – folks. That line made me smile. ;-)

    Loved the breath-taking image of Comet McNaught 2007 at the 50 second mark too. :-)

    Wonder how much Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will resemble that comet at perihelion?

  12. TheVirginian

    Does Comet Quest have multiple levels, where you activate the robotic arms, legs, laser and particle weapons and advance into the cavernous depths of the gigantic comet to do battle with the aliens hiding inside preparing for their surprise attack on the Earth? Do you get to pick up additional weapons after you defeat the outpost guards, steal their energy pods, add their regeneration packs to your equipment so you can recover from otherwise-lethal wounds by their phasers, gamma-ray guns and armored tentacles? Can you penetrate into the dark inner sanctum, where their flying saucers hover, awaiting the command of their Dark Queen (who is the only alien that does not have tentacles, slime bags or stalk eyes, but rather look like 1960s Raquel Welch in a thong bikini) to descend upon mankind, and possess the (stolen) firepower to annihilate the BEM (and bikini’d) threat to us all?
    If Comet Quest doesn’t have that, I. Am. Not. Interested.
    (Well, maybe juuuussstttt a little, but only late at night, with the bedcovers pulled up so I won’t be discovered and lose my nerd cred.)

  13. The last few moments while the lander sets down will be pretty hair-raising (get it???).

  14. Stargazer

    @MHS

    NASA/JPL has one instrument onboard the Rosetta, so I guess that’s why.

    I too think that NASA and ESA should explore Mars together. Makes more sense.

  15. Blargh

    @ Messier Tidy Upper

    Given the Cassini-Huygens mission name for that combined orbiter/lander spacecraft, I’m wondering why they are not calling this Rosetta-Philae – I guess Rosetta is shorter and less of a mouthful when their already landing on a comet that’s hard to pronounce?

    Could be, but then how do you explain how few can pronounce “Huygens” correctly? ;)
    (Dutch pronunciation is… strange.)

    ‘Ger’ as in ‘Geronimo’ at the start of the second – but I could be mispronouncing it myself. Anyone else know exactly how its said or have mnenonics for it?)

    At least according to Russian pronunciation rules it should be “Girasimyenka” (the stress is on the ‘е’ in “Герасименко” – bolded in the transliteration for clarity) with a hard ‘G’.

  16. Joel

    Rosetta has quite a bit of NASA involvement. There are three U.S. instruments: the Alice ultraviolet spectrograph, the MIRO microwave instrument, and the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES). There are also several U.S. scientists as members on European instrument teams as well as interdisciplinary scientists as part of the Rosetta project.

  17. Matt B.

    Ooh, I know we’re going to see a lot of these pictures on BA. A time lapse will certainly be expected.

    Not a good voiceover. Some misplaced emphases and mispronunciations, and use of the wrong pitch on emphasis in several places. Too many bad points to catalog, but was /revelay/ supposed to be “reveille”?

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