Space

ESA visualizes Rosetta's tangled orbital history in new video

Rosetta's orbital path traced around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Rosetta's orbital path traced around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Rosetta's orbital path traced around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Rosetta's orbital path traced around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

ESA has released a video detailing theintricate orbit traveled by Rosetta over the past two years as theprobe explored the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Thevisualization was constructed from genuine Rosetta telemetry, thoughthe spin of the comet itself is not accurately mapped.

The visualization displays a highlychoreographed dance comprised of carefully calculated mapping/scienceorbits, and one-off maneuvers designed to fulfill specific missiongoals. The animation begins on July 31, 2014, with Rosetta making itsfinal approach to 67P prior to orbital insertion. The probe is thenseen to make a series of sharp maneuvers as it characterized theirregular shape of the comet, and transitioned into a closer orbit.

The animation goes on to highlight thedelicate maneuvers executed by Rosetta's mission team to bring theprobe into position for the Nov. 12 deployment of the Philae lander.Unfortunately, after bidding farewell to Rosetta, Philae experiencedsomewhat of a traumatic landing, which saw the intrepid explorer cometo rest in a location that limited the amount of nourishing sunlightfalling upon its solar panels.

After completing a number of its keyscientific goals, the lander, unable to recharge its batteries, fellinto a state of deep hibernation. February and March of 2015 sawRosetta undertake a series of flybys. During one of these encounters,dust originating from the comet impaired Rosetta's navigationalsystems, forcing the probe to enter a "safe mode" that,as a precaution, took it to a more distant orbit relative to 67P asthe issue was addressed.

Over the course of the next two monthsRosetta undertook a series of zigzag-like maneuvers designed tomaximize its chances of re-establishing stable contact withPhilae, which had briefly re-established communications with theorbiter in June. Unfortunately, these efforts proved to be in vain.

In August 2015, as 67P made its closestapproach to the Sun, known as perihelion, the probe adopted a more distant orbit, flying beyond 100 km (62 miles) to protect itself from asignificant increase in comet activity known as outgassing brought on by the intense heatof our star.

In the months following perihelion theworst of the outgassing subsided, allowing Rosetta to safely close inon the comet to continue its science operations, and perform furtherflybys of 67P.

The animation ends on Aug. 9, 2016,with Rosetta in a relatively close-proximity elliptical orbit to 67P.It is expected that Rosetta will end its mission by colliding withthe comet at 50 cm per second, only half the speed at which Philaedescended, on Sept. 30, 2016.

Scroll down to view ESA's visualization of Rosetta's orbital history to date.

Source: ESA

Rosetta’s journey around the comet

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