Comet Chasing Spacecraft to Wake Up Next Year

  • Oct 16, 2013 2:48pm GMT
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From Huffington Post - Europe's comet-chasing space probe Rosetta has been hibernating for more than two years, but in January, the spacecraft will be jolted awake to prepare for the climax of its mission.

Rosetta launched in March 2004 and has been racing after the distant comet 67-P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ever since. To reach the comet, the spacecraft has performed an intricate series of gravitational slingshots around Earth and Mars.

In August 2014, Rosetta will finally catch up to its comet target as it sails just inside the orbit of Jupiter, about 373 million miles from the sun.

"We are very excited to have this important milestone in sight, but we will be anxious to assess the health of the spacecraft after Rosetta has spent nearly 10 years in space," Fred Jansen, ESA's Rosetta mission manager, said in a statement.

In late May, at less than 1.2 million miles from its target, Rosetta is due to execute a major maneuver to prepare for its rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. From that relatively short distance, the probe will also start snapping more detailed images of the comet to glean better information on its topography, rotation speed and orientation.

Then, in August, Rosetta will arrive at the comet. Then in November 2014, it will deploy a lander named Philae to take an up-close look at the icy body, which measures about 2.4 miles across.

Read the full story at Huffington Post

Video courtesy ESA via Space.com