Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


U-M Team Bids Farewell to Rosetta Comet Mission

Posted: September 29, 2016

U-M Team Bids Farewell to Rosetta Comet Mission Photo: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko/ESA

The comet-chasing Rosetta Mission will have its grand finale tomorrow, bringing to a close a 12-year trek across the skies with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta will initiate a controlled descent to the surface of its comet on the night of September 29th, and touch down at on Friday, September 30th, at about 6:40 a.m. EDT, thus ending a fascinating journey of discovery for mission scientists. The ESA Rosetta blog shared an end of mission schedule.

Since its deep-space rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta has remained in close proximity to the comet on its journey back to the inner Solar System, providing ESA (European Space Agency) and U-M Climate & Space scientists with a trove of data about the object. 

As the Rosetta Mission ends, Climate & Space professor K.C. Hansen, and research fellow Nicolas Fougere are publishing studies of long-term production of volatiles on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Although the mission will end with the demise of the spacecraft, scientists at the Climate & Space department of the University of Michigan are still conducting important research. 

According to prof. Hansen, "Two papers, [1] [2] to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, highlight Michigan's contribution to the Rosetta mission. Both papers are based on the sophisticated modeling performed by Nicolas Fougere. Fougere et al. perform modeling of the most common cometary gases, water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen (O2).  By tuning the models to match Rosetta data, Fougere et al. are studying the long terms production trend of these molecules. [We] use the models of Fougere to further study the production of water at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by comparing models and Rosetta spacecraft measurements. [Our] work was featured on the Rosetta/ESA blog." Andre Bieler, another UM scientist, will be giving one of the end of mission symposium talks entitled "Comet activity variation and evolution." 

Although a crash-landing might seem an ignominious end to Rosetta, Climate & Space professor Tamas Gombosi, a mission scientist, says, “...that’s the best way to do it. The last few hours, we will have absolutely unique data, there’s a grand finale and then the fat lady stops singing.”

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