ESA’s Rosetta Gets a New Target

Image credit: ESA

The comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta has been given a new comet to chase: Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency announced on Wednesday that the spacecraft will now be launched in February 2004, and it will rendezvous with the comet in November 2014. Rosetta was originally supposed to launch earlier this year, but it was delayed after an Ariane 5 rocket failed to launch its satellite payload – Rosetta was held back to give investigation teams time to determine what called the failure, and lost its launch window for Comet Wirtanen.

Comet-chasing mission Rosetta will now set its sights on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. During its meeting on 13-14th May 2003, ESA’s Science Programme Committee decided Rosetta’s new mission baseline.

The spacecraft will be launched in February 2004 from Kourou, French Guiana, using an Ariane-5 G+ launcher. The rendezvous with the new target comet is expected in November 2014.

The choice of a new comet has required intensive efforts, including observations by telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the ESO Very Large Telescope to ensure we know as much as we can about the new target. The cost of the Rosetta launch delay is estimated at round 70 million Euros. The ESA Ministerial Council has resolved the financial issue by approving financial flexibility at Agency level.

Scientists will now investigate an alternative launch to this comet, in February 2005, as a back-up plan. Rendezvous with the comet is expected in November 2014.

Once again, Europe is set to try to do something no-one has ever done before – to chase and catch a comet.

Original Source: ESA News Release

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