Rosetta is the first mission to be sent to orbit and land on a comet.

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  • Images returned from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission indicate that during its most recent trip through the inner solar system, the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was a very active place – full of growing fractures, collapsing cliffs and massive rolling boulders. Moving material buried some features on the comet’s surface while exhuming others. A study on 67P’s changing surface was released Tuesday, March 21, in the journal Science.

Official Websites:


March 2004:

April 2004:
Instrument Checkout & Comet LINEAR

March 2005:
Earth 1 Gravity Assist

July 2005:
Deep Impact Observation

Feb 2007:
Mars Gravity Assist

Nov 2007:
Earth 2 Gravity Assist

Sept 2008:
Asteroid Steins Flyby

Nov 2009:
Earth 3 Gravity Assist

July 2010:
Asteroid Lutetia Flyby

July 2011:
Aphelion/Enter Hibernation

Jan 2014:
Exit Hibernation

May 2014:
Rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Aug 2014:
Start Global Mapping of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Nov 2014:
Philae Lands on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Aug 2015:
Rosetta & Comet Reach Perihelion (closest approach to Sun)

Dec 2015:
End of mission

About the Comet

Dimensions (Small Lobe) 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.0 km OSIRIS
Dimensions (Large Lobe) 4.1 x 3.2 x 1.3 km OSIRIS
Rotation 12.4043 hours OSIRIS
Spin Axis Right ascension: 69 degrees; Declination: 64 degrees OSIRIS
Mass 10^13 kg RSI
Volume 25 km^3 OSIRIS
Density 0.4 g/cm^3 RSI / OSIRIS
Water Vapour Production Rate 300 ml/sec (Jun 2014); 1–5 l/sec (Jul-Aug 2014) MIRO
Surface Temperature 205–230K (Jul-Aug 2014) VIRTIS
Subsurface Temperature 30–160K (Aug 2014) MIRO
Gases Detected Water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane, methanol ROSINA
Dust Grains A few tens of microns to a few hundreds of microns
(detections also by GIADA)

These values are preliminary and will be updated as more information becomes available. Credit: ESA -- Read More:

Fast Facts

  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to escort a comet
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to land on a comet
  • First use of a microwave spectrometer and ultraviolet spectrometer on a comet
  • Rosetta gets its name from the famous Rosetta stone that led to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics almost 200 years ago.
  • Rosetta was the first spacecraft to fly close to Jupiter’s orbit using only solar cells as its main power source.
  • The Philae lander is named for the island in the river Nile on which an obelisk was found that had a bilingual inscription that enabled the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone to be deciphered.


What Will Rosetta Do?

  • Rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 deploy a lander and escort the comet as it orbits the Sun past the perihelion.
  • Investigate the structure of a quiet and dynamic nucleus
  • Test isotopic fractions to understand the origins of comets
  • Understand how all comet components: tails, coma and nucleus function together
  • Extend the newly acquired comet knowledge to the formation of the solar system and the origin of water on Earth

The Spacecraft

  • Launch vehicle: Ariane-5 G+
  • Launch mass: Orbiter: 2900 kg (including 1670 kg propellant and 165 kg science payload); Lander (Philae): 100 kg
  • Dimensions: Orbiter: 2.8 x 2.1 x 2.0 m with two 14 metre long solar panels
  • Instruments:
  • Orbiter (11 science instrument packages):
  • ALICE: Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer
  • CONSERT: Comet Nucleus Sounding
  • COSIMA: Cometary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser
  • GIADA: Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator
  • MIDAS: Micro-Imaging Analysis System
  • MIRO: Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter
  • OSIRIS: Rosetta Orbiter Imaging System
  • ROSINA: Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis
  • RPC: Rosetta Plasma Consortium
  • RSI: Radio Science Investigation
  • VIRTIS: Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer

The Lander: Philae (10 Science Instrument Packages):

  • APXS: Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer
  • ÇIVA / ROLIS: Rosetta Lander Imaging System
  • CONSERT: Comet Nucleus Sounding
  • COSAC: Cometary Sampling and Composition experiment
  • MODULUS PTOLEMY: Evolved Gas Analyser
  • MUPUS: Multi-Purpose Sensor for Surface and Subsurface Science
  • ROMAP: RoLand Magnetometer and Plasma Monitor
  • SD2: Sample and Distribution Device
  • SESAME: Surface Electrical Sounding and Acoustic Monitoring Experiment

Continued Rosetta Coverage:

About Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko:Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Rosetta Videos:


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