November 14, 2007

Rosetta Swing-by a Success

An important milestone has just been accomplished as Rosetta successfully swung by Earth at 21:57 CET. The spacecraft will now be catapulted towards the outer Solar System with its newly-gained energy before coming back to Earth for another boost.

As mission operators waited for the fully automated manoeuvre to be carried out, Rosetta flew directly above 63° 46' south and 74° 35' west, at 21:57 CET (above the Pacific ocean, south-west of Chile). Rosetta whizzed past 5295 km overhead, at a velocity of 45 000 km/h (12.5 km/s).

Europe's comet chaser has now flown a little over 3 thousand million km of its 7.1 thousand-million-km journey on its way to its destination comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This was the third planetary swing-by for Rosetta and its second swing-by of Earth. 

Science close to Earth

Around closest approach, Rosetta took a good look at Earth for observations of its atmosphere and magnetosphere, imaged urban regions, and looked for meteors from space. Shortly before midnight, Rosetta will turn to observe the Moon until about 11:00 CET tomorrow, 14 November. Following this, on 15, 16, 18 and 20 November, Rosetta will observe the Earth-Moon system from a distance, on its outbound trajectory.

Scientists are now eagerly awaiting some of the first data to become available during the course of the night.

Rosetta will be back in our neighbourhood, and will swing by Earth for the last time in November 2009. But before that, as it crosses the asteroid belt, Rosetta will grab the opportunity to study asteroid Steins during a fly-by in September 2008.

Tune in early tomorrow morning: we will be publishing pictures and results as soon as they become available, throughout the day on 14 November.


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Rosetta Mission