Rosetta Mission Update
The Rosetta Mission, the first mission to have a lander which will touch down on a comet, was suppose to launch in January 2003. Unfortunately, launch has been delayed and no new launch date has been set.
News story originally written on January 21, 2003
The Rosetta spacecraft was to be launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Just a month before Rosetta's projected launch date, another Ariane 5 rocket self-destructed because it had veered so far off course! It is a bitter blow, but the European Space Agency, which is managing the Rosetta mission, chose to delay the mission until a suitable rocket is tested and is proven safe.
Rosetta missed its launch window. This means it cannot rendezvous with comet Wirtanen as was planned. However, the ESA is in the process of finding other suitable comets that Rosetta might meet with and land on! The Rosetta spacecraft is actually made of two parts: an orbiter, which will approach the chosen comet and then circle it, and a lander, which will touch down on the comet.
Rosetta is certainly taking a new direction than was first planned. Rosetta's Project Scientist, Gerhard Schwehm, speaks on behalf of all of those involved with Rosetta. He said, "During the decade it has taken us to develop and build Rosetta, we have faced many challenges and overcome them all. This new challenge will be met with the same energy, enthusiasm and, ultimately, success." Given time, Rosetta will still study a given comet in detail, in hopes that this will lead to new scientific findings about all comets and thus about the formation of our solar system.