Rosetta mission prepares for launch
News story originally written on January 15, 2004
Scientists and engineers involved with the Rosetta
space mission are preparing
for the spacecraft's launch, which is scheduled for February 2004. Rosetta
was originally intended to blast off about one year ago, in January 2003. Last
was delayed, however, over concerns about the safety of the spacecraft's
Ariane 5 launch vehicle. While engineers worked out the problems with the Ariane
scientists had to choose a new target for the Rosetta mission which will rendezvous
with and land a probe on the surface of
a comet. The original target, Comet
Wirtanen, has moved out of range of the mission.
Rosetta is now slated to begin pursuit of its new target, Comet
with a liftoff on February 26, 2004. Rosetta's new target is larger than
the comet it was formerly designed to study, and thus has stronger gravity.
Engineers had to modify the landing gear on the Rosetta
lander to withstand
more shock since the vehicle will be moving faster when in touches down on
the comet's nucleus.
Rosetta will travel a long and roundabout path on the way to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The spacecraft will go into orbit around the comet in August 2014, and
the lander will touch down in November of that year. Along the way it will
fly by Earth three times and Mars once,
gaining speed via a "gravity assist" during each planetary encounter.
Rosetta is also expected to fly past at least
one asteroid during its ten-year
long journey, though the particular asteroid it will study has not yet been
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