The Rosetta spacecraft and its lander, Philae, provided an unprecedented look at a space rock
Rosetta NavCam/ESA (CC BY-SA IGO 3.0), Rosetta MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS, UPD, LAM, IAA, SSO, INTA, UPM, DASP, IDA/ESA, Rosetta Philae CIVA/ESA, Rosetta Philae ROLIS, DLR/ESA
A year after the Rosetta spacecraft’s rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko came to an end, the views are still stunning. This montage, released in September by the European Space Agency, includes 210 of the thousands of images taken by Rosetta and the Philae lander and recaps the daring mission to explore the space rock. The images are arranged chronologically (starting at the top left and moving from left to right in each row).
After a decade-long journey to catch up to a comet whizzing through space at speeds up to 135,000 kilometers per hour, Rosetta finally reached 67P in August 2014 (SN: 9/6/14, p. 8). The spacecraft began documenting the comet’s odd duck shape (SN: 2/21/15, p. 6) and zooming in to pinpoint a perfect place for Philae to park. Each craft took “farewell” images of the other before Philae’s tumultuous touchdown, when the lander got an extremely close look at the comet’s surface (fourth row).
Rosetta captured its shadow on 67P’s surface (sixth row, far left), along with evidence of outgassing from the comet. The spacecraft then drew close enough to spot Philae (second to last row, second from right) and snap extraordinary views of the surface before making its own final plunge into the comet on September 30, 2016. The last image in the mosaic shows the spot on 67P’s surface that became Rosetta’s final resting place.
Click or tap the images below to see more details.
ESA. Rosetta’s ever-changing view of a comet. September 25, 2017.
C. Crockett. New results from Philae lander offer first close-up of a comet. Science News. Vol. 188, August 22, 2015, p. 13.
C. Crockett. Rosetta reveals a complex comet. Science News. Vol. 187, February 21, 2015, p. 6.
A. Yeager. Rosetta spacecraft confabs with a comet. Science News. Vol. 186, September 6, 2014, p. 8.