CNRS, major actor in the Rosetta mission

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Within one week, on November 12, between 17h and 17:30, the Philae lander of the Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA) will try to land on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P. An unprecedented and dangerous mission through which scientists, belonging to the CNRS and various French universities, rely to shed light on some of the mysteries of our origins. The CNRS has participated in the development of thirteen scientific instruments of the mission, including three of which he is the principal investigator. Everywhere in France, and more particularly at the Cité de l’Espace, Toulouse, it will be possible to watch live this world premiere, which will be broadcast on video at CNRS researchers and engineers will be especially mobilized that day to answer, live on Twitter with #PoseToiPhilae, questions from the public about the mission and its scientific issues.

The ESA Rosetta mission aims to collect data on the composition and properties of the nucleus of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta came into orbit around the comet on August 6, 2014. Its small lander, Philae, will try to land on the comet on November 12, 2014. This will be the first time that a landing will be attempted on a cometary nucleus!

Rosetta is equipped with 21 scientific instruments that lead to perform a set of specific and complementary measurements: chemical composition of the surface materials, internal structure and composition of the nucleus, direct and indirect images at different wavelengths, dynamics and types of dust emissions, surface degassing, magnetism, etc.

The CNRS contributes to thirteen Rosetta instruments: eight on the probe which is orbiting 67P-Churyumov-Gerasimenko, four on the Philae lander and one (CONSERT) present on both the orbiter and lander. The CNRS is the principal investigator of three of these instruments: CIVA, RPC-MIP (both on Philae) and CONSERT. The CIVA instrument should take the first pictures of the surface of the comet. Rosetta is a real scientific Swiss knife developed by an international consortium of laboratories and agencies (Europe and USA). The study of the external and internal environment of the comet will allow to better know about these “dirty snowballs,” and thus about the formation of the solar system and our origins.

The French laboratories involved in Rosetta-Philae are :

  • CSNSM (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud)
  • GET (CNRS/IRD/Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III)
  • IAS (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud)
  • ICN (CNRS/Université Nice Sophia Antipolis)
  • IPAG (CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier)
  • IRAP (CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III)
  • LERMA (Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/ENS/Université Cergy Pontoise/UPMC)
  • LESIA (Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/Université Paris Diderot/UPMC)
  • LISA (CNRS/Université Paris Diderot/UPEC)
  • LPC2E (CNRS/Université d’Orléans)
  • LPP (École Polytechnique/CNRS/Université Paris-Sud/UPMC)



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