A chapter in the odyssey of the Rosetta spacecraft in deep space finds a happy ending after a grueling wait: dive into sleep for 31 months, the probe has just tonight got in touch with ESA. Rosetta will be the first space mission to make a rendezvous with a comet, trying to put a lander on its surface and then to follow it when it approaches the Sun. His target is comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Since its launch in 2004, Rosetta flew three times around the Earth and once around Mars in order to benefit from the gravity assistance which enabled it to achieve its goal, then approached the asteroids Steins and Lutetia. Rosetta, which operates only with solar energy, has been put in a deep sleep in June 2011, while it was travelling beyond the orbit of Jupiter, at about 800 million kilometers from the Sun that fed up its solar panels. Since then, it has returned to “only” 673 million kilometers from our planet, which is close enough for the spacecraft to benefit from its radiation again.
Today, Rosetta has still about 9 million kilometers to go to reach the comet. Its internal pre-programmed alarm clock pulled it from her sleep. Once its main navigational instruments reactivated, its stopped rotating and the probe pointed its main antenna toward the Earth to let the leaders of the mission know that it had survived deep space journey. This signal was received by the NASA ground station Goldstone (California) at 18:18 UT. This signal was immediately confirmed by the European Space Operations Centre of ESA in Darmstadt and the awakening of the probe was announced via the Twitter account @ ESA_Rosetta: “Hi, world!”
At the French level, the CNES coordinates the activities related to Rosetta : no less than 9 CNRS and universities laboratories located throughout the country participate in the mission :
- LPC2E – OSU (CNRS/Université d’Orléans)
- LAM – OSU Institut Pythéas (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université)
- IAS (CNRS/Université Paris Sud)
- LERMA (Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/ENS/UPMC/Université Cergy Pontoise)
- LESIA (Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/UPMC/Université Paris Diderot)
- LISA – OVSQ (CNRS/Université Paris Diderot/Université Paris Est Créteil)
- LATMOS – OVSQ (CNRS/UPMC/Université Versailles Saint Quentin)
- IRAP – OMP (CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III)
- IPAG – OSUG (CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier)
Involvement of the IRAP researchers in the ROSETTA Mission
IRAP is deeply involved in this mission of the European Space Agency, one of the most ambitious missions in the history of space exploration, both in the instrumental part and the scientific program : participation in the orbiter payload (design of the electronic management of the spectrometer of neutral and ionized gas ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) , contribution to the development of the hyper-frequency sonar CONSERT and of the lander (tests of the X, alpha and protons spectrometer, APXS). More specifically, the ROSINA instrument will be responsible for determining the composition of the atmosphere and the ionosphere of the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the velocities of the particles of ionized gas and the chemical reactions in which they are involved ; CONSERT (Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission) will probe the interior of the comet by studying the reflection and the scattering of radio waves by the core ; APXS (Alpha X-ray Spectrometer) will determine the chemical composition of the surface of the comet nucleus. Christian Mazelle, researcher at IRAP, is co-investigator of the ROSETTA mission. The other IRAP researchers involved in this mission are : Henri Rème, Professor Emeritus of the University of Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, Lionel d’Uston and Jean-André Sauvaud, CNRS research directors ; Jeremie Lasue, astronomer .
IRAP Contact :
- Christian Mazelle : firstname.lastname@example.org