Monday, February 26, 2007

Rosetta Mars flyby

The Rosetta comet rendezvous mission has made a gravity assist manoeuvre around Mars, using a close pass of the planet to boost it toward its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The probe switched on the camera aboard Rosetta's Philae lander (which will be attempting the first landing on a comet in May 2014) just four minutes before the spacecraft reached closest approach to the Red Planet. It returned some stunning images, including one showing elements of the Rosetta probe itself with the planet 1000 kilometres below, plus some nice images showing traces of the Martian atmosphere taken by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera. In addition, the ROMAP instrument was also switched on, collecting data about the magnetic environment of Mars. The approach gave mission scientists the first chance to switch the Philae lander into fully autonomous mode, completely relying on the power of its own batteries. Full story at the Rosetta site.