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Rosetta continues in the full scientific phase

After the landing operation is over, the personnel of the European Space Agency will be able to direct its trajectory according to the needs of the scientific instruments. In the coming days, it will descend to an altitude of 20 kilometers to map the comet in high resolution. From the beginning of 2015 she will listen for signs of life from the Philae lander

The Rosetta spacecraft is operated by crews at the European Space Agency's Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.
The Rosetta spacecraft is operated by crews at the European Space Agency's Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

Following the completion of the Philae lander mission, Rosetta will now continue its own research, attacking Comet 67P Churyumov-Grasimenko over the next year as the enigmatic object traces an arc around the Sun.
Last week, Rosetta launched the Philae lander towards the comet's surface for a dramatic landing. The lander's planned missions ended after 64 hours when its sola was emptied but not before sending a complete series of results that are now being analyzed by scientists all over Europe. Rosetta's mission itself is far from over and it is in good condition, with all the systems and devices on it working as required.
"After the landing operation is completed, Rosetta will resume routine scientific observations and we will switch to "comet escort" mode, says flight director Andrea Komazzo. "This phase of gathering scientific data will accompany us throughout the next year as the comet approaches the Sun, when it will cross the perihelion or the closest point to the Sun on August 13, at a distance of 186 kilometers from it" (between the orbit of Mars and the orbit of the Earth AB) .

On November 16, the control center personnel moved from the large control room at the operations center of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, where the activity took place during the landing operation, to a small, dedicated control room to a marker where the control personnel always flew the spacecraft.

Since then, Rosetta has performed a series of maneuvers using its engines to optimize its orbit around the comet for the 11 science instruments. "Additional burns of the engines are planned for November 22 and 26, which will adjust the trajectory and raise the spacecraft to a height of 30 kilometers above the ground of the comet's nucleus," says Slavain Lodio, the spacecraft's operations manager.

Starting next week, Rosetta's orbit will be chosen according to the needs of the scientific instruments. After its arrival at the comet on August 6, the orbit was planned to mainly meet the lander's needs. On December 3, the spacecraft will descend again to an altitude of 20 km for ten days and then return to an altitude of 30 km.

Rosetta's orbit after November 12, 2014 (the day Philae landed on the comet nucleus). Figure: European Space Agency.
Rosetta's orbit after November 12, 2014 (the day Philae landed on the comet nucleus). Figure: European Space Agency.

"Following the completion of the lander operation, all subsequent orbit changes are planned solely for science," explain Lawrence Uruka and Michael Coopers at the Rota Science Center near Madrid, Spain. "Our ambition is to place the comet as close as possible to the comet before its activity becomes high and makes it impossible to keep the spacecraft in a close orbit," says Lawrence. "The descent to an altitude of 20 kilometers will be used to map large parts of the nucleus with high resolution and to collect gas, dust and plasma during the increase of the comet's activity." Over time, Rosetta will be forced further and further away from the comet's nucleus as it heats up. "Science takes the driver's seat in this great mission, that's why we're there first and foremost," says Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project Scientist. "The science teams have been working hard for the last few years with the operations center people to prepare a dual software for this phase."

When the sun's heat will cause the frozen gases below the surface to rise, a flow of dust particles is expected that will create a kind of atmosphere around the comet, something known as the comet's halo. Rosetta will become the first spacecraft to closely observe the evolution of the comet's halo and its tail, which will extend millions of kilometers into space. Rosetta will then have to move away from the comet to avoid the effect of the halo on its orbit.

In addition, when the comet gets closer to the sun, the sunlight is expected to increase. This may provide enough sunlight for the Philae lander, now in hibernation, to operate again, but this is still uncertain. At the beginning of 2015, Rosetta will switch to a mode that will allow it to listen to the radio signals from the lander located on the comet's surface.

organic molecules

This week, the news agencies also disseminated the alleged discovery of organic materials by Philae on the comet's soil - and there are two corrections to this, first These substances - methane and methanol - were discovered about a month ago using Rosetta's instruments, and secondly, organic substances are defined as substances containing carbon, and in this respect they are indeed organic substances, but their origin does not have to be organic, that is, in the activity of living beings. These molecules are formed in chemical reactions that have nothing to do with biology.

to the announcement of the European Space Agency


Landing on the comet - special coverage on the Hidan website

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