In Pictures: Rosetta captures comet after ten year chase

After ten lonely years of chasing a comet through space, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta has become the first spacecraft ever to interact with a comet.

Yesterday, the final thrusts to get the craft moving at the same trajectory as the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were successfully completed.

Rosetta is the closest it has been to the comet at any point, at 62 miles from the comet’s surface, and is currently around 252 million miles from earth.

In the next few months Roseta will be prepared to land on the surface of the comet, where it will be able to conduct tests.

The European Space Agency’s Ddirector general, Jean-Jacques Dordain, said:”After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometers, we are delighted to announce finally we are here.”

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This image was taken 177 miles from the comet on Rosetta’s narrow-angle camera.


Image courtesy of: Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


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The smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of the comet can be seen from a distance of just 80 miles here.


Image courtesy of: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team


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On August 4 this image of the comet was taken on as Rosetta was making its approach – it was taken from about 234km away.


Image courtesy of: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM


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This image of the coma of the comet covers an area of around 90 miles across and was also taken on the approach to the comet.


Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


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The view captured here shows the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimernko from a distance of 1,210 miles and was taken in July this year.


Image courtesy of: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


Looking for life: NASA announces Mars 2020 rover instruments

NASA has announced the instruments it has selected for its Mars 2020 rover, and the focus is on detecting signs of life and developing technology for a human mission to the red planet.

The Mars 2020 rover is a follow-up to Curiosity, the currently-deployed rover that has excited many with its robotic selfies and amusing tyre shapes. Mars 2020 will have a very similar design to Curiosity, but will feature more advanced instruments that its predecessor.

In an announcement from NASA’s Washington headquarters entitled “Mars 2020 Rover: Studying the Red Planet as Never Before”, the agency outlined the instruments it had selected to be part of the roving laboratory.

As part of the announcement, John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, discussed how great it was that Curiosity – Mars 2020’s predecessor – found that Mars had previously seen life-suitable conditions.

“The science behind Mars 2020 is really going to extend that,” he said.

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Out of the 58 proposals that the agency received, NASA selected seven instruments to feature on the final rover.

Most exciting of these is MOXIE, a system designed to break apart Mars’ CO₂-laden atmosphere to produce oxygen.

Of all the technologies, this bears the most significance for future manned missions, as it could form the basis for a technology to enable humans to breathe on the planet, and one day even provide air for a human colony.

“This is a real step forward in helping human exploration on Mars,” explained Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program.

Among the other technologies selected for Mars 2020 is Mastcam-Z, an upgraded camera that features a zoom for accurate terrain plotting and a weather station named MEDA that will provide clear data about dust levels and how well MOXIE is working.

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Mineral and organic detection, however, covered the bulk of the instruments, with the hope that Mars 2020 will find the long hoped-for evidence of life on the red planet.

Among the instruments designed for this purpose was SuperCam – an upgraded version of Curiosity’s Chemcam with the ability to indentify minerals – SHERLOC – a mineralogy and organics detector – and PIXL, an arm-mounted sensor head that provides detailed mineralogy at the scale of microbial life.

The set is rounded off by RIMFAX – a radar imager that will provide the first subsurface images of Mars.

For Meyer, the value of the instrument selection is in how they work together.

“It’s how they play well together,” he said. “No measurement such as elemental chemistry is only done by one instrument. They overlap, they complement each other”

By having instruments use different methods to achieve the same results, the rover should provide robust and reliable data for future missions.


Images courtesy of NASA.