Philae and Rosetta prepare to close in on asteroid LutetiaJuly 6th, 2010 - 6:49 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, July 6 (ANI): The Rosetta orbiter, carrying the DLR lander Philae, has completed more than two thirds of its journey to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission is to deliver DLR’s Philae lander to the comet’s surface for in situ studies. The spacecraft and lander are scheduled to close in on 21 Lutetia, a large Main belt asteroid, on July 10.
Since launch, Rosetta has travelled roughly 5 billion kilometers. The solar-powered orbiter was launched on an Ariane 5 in 2004. It has used several gravity assist maneuvers - three from Earth and one from Mars - to gain the necessary momentum, refine its trajectory and match the orbit of the comet once it reaches the outer Solar System. The orbiter will circle the comet and, after delivering Philae to the surface, eventually escort the comet on its way to the Sun.
At 100 kilometres in size, 21 Lutetia is one of the larger main belt asteroids. The lander will investigate whether the asteroid has a magnetic field and an exosphere, and study their characteristics.
Philae will first be switched on between 12:45 and 15:05 CEST on July 7 so the team can prepare the lander for activities around closest approach. The lander will perform science observations on July 10.
This observation sequence will take place during the asteroid flyby itself, with the lander switching on at 08:45 CEST on July 10. It will be on throughout the flyby; closest approach is scheduled for 17:45 CEST. The lander and orbiter will be 3169 kilometres from Lutetia, according to recent estimates.
At closest approach, Rosetta will be travelling past Lutetia at 15 kilometers per second - or 54,000 kilometres per hour. (ANI)
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Tags: ariane 5, asteroid flyby, asteroids, comet, dlr, exosphere, gravity assist, kilometers, kilometres, lander, launch, lutetia, magnetic field, observation sequence, outer solar system, philae, rosetta orbiter, science observations, situ studies, trajectory