If you’re waiting for the Rosetta mission to really pay off, you’re going to need a lot of patience. The ESA spacecraft isn’t due to meet up with its target, Comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko, until 2014. But there’s a little science coming on February 25th, when the spacecraft swings by Mars.
Rosetta will make its closest approach to the Red Planet at 0153 GMT, February 25th, passing only 250 km above the surface. The primary objective of this flyby is to give the spacecraft a speed boost, using Mars’ gravity to increase its velocity. Rosetta already made a flyby past Earth in 2005, and will perform another in November 2009.
As part of its Martian flyby, Rosetta will be operating all of its instruments for two days before and after the closest encounter. It’ll be gathering data about the surface of Mars, the atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind and take photos of its two satellites, Phobos and Deimos.
Original Source: PPARC News Release