Rosetta Mission Gets Nine-Month Extension

posted: 06/23/15
by: Danny Clemens
Rosetta approaches comet (artist impression)
Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

The European Space Agency today announced a nine-month extension of its Rosetta mission. Originally scheduled to run out of funding at the end of this year, the mission has now been given funding to continue September 2016.

The spacecraft is currently in orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is nearing perihelion (the point of its orbit when it is nearest to the Sun). After September 2016, astronomers believe that the comet will be too far away from the Sun for Rosetta's solar power systems to charge, effectively ending the mission.

"This is fantastic news for science," remarked Rosetta Project Scientist Matt Taylor. "We'll be able to monitor the decline in the comet's activity as we move away from the Sun again, and we'll have the opportunity to fly closer to the comet to continue collecting more unique data. By comparing detailed 'before and after' data, we'll have a much better understanding of how comets evolve during their lifetimes."

ESA officials are tentatively planning to land Rosetta on the comet's surface at the end of the mission.

Rosetta is largely considered to be one of the most successful space missions. The spacecraft was the first to perform a close flyby of Jupiter using solar power and the first to accompany a comet toward the inner solar system. Its companion lander Philae was the first to perform a controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus. As Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaches the Sun over the next several months, Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to observe the Sun's impact on a frozen comet.

Click here for more information from the European Space Agency

Learn more about comets:

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Making a Comet

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