ESAâ€™s Rosetta spacecraft will make an historic encounter with asteroid (2867) Steins on September 5, 2008 at 20:58 CEST (Central European Summer Time), 2:58 pm EDT (US Eastern Daylight Time.) A few days ago, Rosetta conducted a successful trajectory correction maneuver using images from the spacecraft’s cameras to calculate the asteroid’s location, to optimize its trajectory for the fly-by. Rosetta will rendezvous with the asteroid while one its way to its primary mission, to visit comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At its closest approach to the asteroid, the spacecraft will be just 800 km from Steins.
At closest approach, however, the spacecraft will not be in communication with Earth. First ground contact with the spacecraft to verify a successful flyby will occur about an hour and half after the encounter. The first images and results will be available for presentation to the media during a press conference on Saturday, September 6 at 12:00 CEST.
Steins is Rosettaâ€™s first nominal scientific target. The study of asteroids is extremely important as they represent a sample of Solar System material at different stages of evolution â€“ key to understanding the origin of our own planet and of our planetary neighborhood. Rosetta will also encounter (21) Lutetia on June 10, 2010.
We’ll post the images and information from the flyby here on Universe Today as soon as they are available.