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Comet-Chasing Spacecraft Is Awake

Published on 22 January 2014

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Rosetta Spacecraft
Rosetta Spacecraft

The Rosetta spacecraft “woke up” after a record 957 days of hibernation. The first communication from the spacecraft arrived at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, at 7:18 p.m. local time (18:15 UTC) on January 20. The signal was received by a ground station at the Goldstone, California, complex of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Rosetta, heading toward comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA. Unlike the previous half-dozen visits of human spacecraft to comets, which involved high-speed flybys, Rosetta is planning to stay.

It will monitor 67P as it makes its nosedive into, and then climb out of, the inner solar system. The comet is expected to transform over 16 months from a small, frozen world into a roiling mass of ice and dust, complete with surface eruptions, mini-earthquakes, football-sized, fluffy ice particles and spewing jets of carbon dioxide and cyanide.

Since work began on Rosetta in 1993, scientists and engineers from all over Europe and the United States have been combining their talents to build an orbiter and a lander for this unique expedition.

The artist’s conception above shows Rosetta covered with dark thermal insulation to retain its warmth while venturing into the coldness of the outer solar system, beyond Mars orbit.



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Posted 2014-01-22 05:35:00