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Space Craft and the Craft of Understanding Comets

Space Craft and the Craft of Understanding Comets

Humans have always been attracted to space and the mysteries it presents. Over the last 50 years, innumerable space missions have been planned and implemented. Some have been successful while others have failed. But there will be no lull in attempts and man will eventually make space travel as common as air travel is today. The absolute latest in space news has to be the comet-chasing mission that is going to be made by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta. Rosetta has been cruising towards a particular destination for ten years now and within 100 days, it will awake from hibernation mode.

Rosetta’s story

Rosetta was launched on March 2, 2004, and via a complicated series of flybys – 3 times past the Earth and one time past Mars, it set course to its final-destination, the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In 2011 July, Rosetta was coerced into deep-space hibernation for the most distant and coldest segment of its journey as it travelled approximately 800M kms from the Sun, very close to Jupiter’s orbit. This spacecraft was oriented in such a manner that its solar-wings directly faced the Sun to enable it to receive as much sunlight as possible.

The Crucial Moment

Now, the time of reckoning has come and the comet as well as the spacecraft is both on their return journey to the inner segment of the Solar System and Rosetta is all set to wake up from its decade-long slumber. Once Rosetta wakes up, it will be approximately 9M kms from the comet. Even as it gravitates towards the comet, the instruments on its orbiter and lander will be turned on and Rosetta will help us in understanding a little more about the roles that comets play in the evolution of the Solar System. So, 2014 is set to be the year in which Rosetta will line up for its comet rendezvous.

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