Thursday, 4 September 2008

Asteroid encounter

On Friday, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft will do a fly-by of asteroid 2867 Steins a small rock, a tiny rock, about 4.6 km across between the orbits of Mars And Jupiter.
Rosetta is currently tracking Steins and will make course adjustments, if needed, aiming for a closest approach of about 800 km.

This will be a good opportunity to test systems on Rosetta but also fascinating in it's own right. I'll try to post some images etc over the weekend as they as released.

The Rosetta mission is very ambitious including another asteroid fly-by (21 Lutetia in 2010) and culminating in a six month study of a cometary nucleus (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014) where it will orbit as close as 2km and release a lander to the surface.
From The Planetary Society:

Rosetta will spend six months mapping and observing Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is only 4 kilometers/2.5 miles in diameter. Then, the spacecraft will release Philae, the lander, to the core for the first-ever direct sampling of a comet's nucleus. Rosetta will continue to make observations from as close as 2 kilometers/1.2 miles. Together with the lander, Rosetta will conduct a total of 21 experiments that will characterize the comet's dynamic properties and surface morphology, as well as determine physical properties of the surface and subsurface, and the chemical, mineralogical, and isotopic compositions.
Another mission to watch out for.
Image credit: ESA

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