NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 9 a.m. PST (12 p.m. EST) Friday, Jan. 24, to discuss the road ahead for the three U.S. science instruments, as well as other NASA support, that are part of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta mission. Having been reactivated Monday after a record 957 days in hibernation, the spacecraft will be the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus.
The Rosetta mission could help inform NASA's asteroid initiative, which will be the first mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid for astronauts to explore.
Audio of the event will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio
James Green, director of planetary science, NASA Headquarters, Washington
Mark McCaughrean, ESA senior scientific advisor, Noordwijk, the Netherlands
Matthew Taylor, ESA Rosetta project scientist, Noordwijk
Claudia Alexander, U.S. Rosetta project scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Art Chmielewski, U.S. Rosetta project manager, JPL
Alexander 1 - Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale; the Rosetta spacecraft measures 105 feet (32 meters) across including the solar arrays, while the comet nucleus is thought to be about 2.5 miles (4 km) wide. Image credit: ESA/ATG Medialab
Alexander 2 - Rosetta's Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) (left) specializes in detecting thermal properties. The instrument combines a spectrometer and radiometer, so it can sense temperature and identify chemicals located on or near the comet's surface, and even in the dust and ices jetting out from it. The instrument will also see the gaseous activity through the dusty cloud of material. Rosetta scientists will use it to determine how different materials in the comet change from ice to gas, and to observe how much it changes in temperature as it approaches the sun.
On the right is the asteroid Lutetia, as seen by Rosetta when it flew by the asteroid in July 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Alexander 3 - The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission carries an ultraviolet spectrometer called Alice (top left) provided by NASA. Alice will analyze gases in the coma and tail of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and measure the comet's production rates of water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It will provide information on the surface composition of the nucleus, and make a potentially key measurement of argon, which will be a big clue about what the temperature was in the primordial solar system when the comet's nucleus originally formed (more than 4.6 billion years ago).
An example of the benefits of looking at the same object in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths can be seen in these views of a galaxy called IC 3418 (lower right). The ultraviolet composite view (left side) shows a tail behind the galaxy. The tail does not appear in the image taken only with a visible-light telescope on the ground (right side). The image on the left is a composite of data from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (far-ultraviolet light is dark blue and near-ultraviolet light is light blue); and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (visible light is colored green and red). The image on the right is from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Image Credit: NASA/SWRI and NASA/JPL-Caltech
Alexander 4 - Aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES) (top left), which is part of a suite of five instruments to characterize the plasma environment of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These instruments are particularly designed to study the coma, which is the fuzzy-looking envelope around the nucleus of a comet that develops when the comet approaches the sun. The sun's outer atmosphere, the solar wind, interacts with the gas flowing out from the comet, and the instrument will measure the charged particles it comes in contact with as the orbiter approaches the comet's nucleus.
On the right is what plasma looks like when it is seen with a special "plasma imager," in this case NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft looking at Earth. IMAGE was a Medium Explorer mission sponsored by NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Program and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, conducted IMAGE science operations. James Burch was the mission principal investigator of IMAGE and is the principal investigator of Rosetta's IES. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI and NASA/GSFC/SWRI
Alexander 5 - For the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, NASA provided part of the electronics package for an instrument called the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument. ROSINA will be the first instrument with the resolution to separate two molecules that have approximately the same mass: molecular nitrogen and carbon monoxide. Clear identification of nitrogen will help scientists understand conditions at the time the solar system was born. Image Credit: University of Bern/Lockheed Martin
Chmielewski 1 - NASA's Deep Space Network provides support for the European Space Agency's Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation. These aerial photos show instruments at the NASA Deep Space Network complexes, including the giant 230-feet-wide (70-meter-wide) antenna at the Goldstone, California complex (left) and a similar antenna at Canberra, Australia. Both antennas supported the wake-up activities for ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on Jan. 20, 2014. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Chmielewski 2 - A basic timeline illustrating milestones from Rosetta's launch to its encounter with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Image credit: ESA/NASA