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ROSETTA MISSION: First ever spacecraft to land on a comet

23.10.2014

BROADCAST OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE FROM

EUROPEAN SPACE OPERATIONS CENTRE IN DARMSTADT, GERMANY 

Story Summary: Wednesday 12th November 2014, ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday 12th November after a decade long journey travelling through space. 

Since its arrival at the comet on 6th August, the mission has been conducting an unprecedented survey and scientific analysis of the comet, a remnant of the early phases of the Solar System's 4.6 billion-year history.

Rosetta has also been moving closer and it is now just 10 km from the centre of the 4 km-wide body.

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This proximity has allowed for a more detailed look at the primary and backup landing sites in order to complete a hazard assessment, including a detailed boulder census. 

The chosen landing site for Philae is currently known as Site J and it is located on the smaller of the comet's two 'lobes'.

Site J was chosen unanimously over four other candidate sites as the primary landing site because the majority of terrain within a square kilometre area has slopes of less than 30º relative to the local vertical and because there are relatively few large boulders. The area also receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue surface science operations beyond the initial 64-hour battery-powered phase. 

On 12th November Rosetta will release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET at a distance of approximately 22.5 km from the centre of the comet. Landing will be about seven hours later at around 15:30 GMT/16:30 CET. 

One-way signals between Rosetta and Earth take 28 minutes and 20 seconds to arrive, that means that confirmation of separation will arrive on Earth ground stations at 09:03 GMT/10:03 CET and of touchdown at around 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET. 

After the release of Philae, Rosetta will manoeuvre up and away from the comet, before reorienting itself in order to establish communications with Philae. All being well, Rosetta and its lander will begin communications about two hours after separation. 

During the seven-hour descent, Philae will take images and conduct science experiments, sampling the dust, gas and plasma environment close to the comet. It will also take a 'farewell' image of the Rosetta orbiter shortly after separation, along with a number of images as it approaches the comet surface. It is expected that the first images from this sequence will be received on Earth several hours after separation. 

Once safely on the surface, Philae will take a panorama of its surroundings. Again, this is expected back on Earth several hours later. 

The first sequence of surface science experiments will begin about an hour after touchdown and will last for 64 hours, constrained by the lander's primary battery lifetime. Longer-term study of the comet by Philae will depend on for how long and how well the batteries are able to recharge, which in turn is related to the amount of dust that settles on its solar panels. 

In any case, it is expected that by March 2015, as the comet moves closer in its orbit towards the Sun, temperatures inside the lander will have reached levels too high to continue operations, and Philae's science mission will come to an end. 

The Rosetta orbiter's mission will continue for much longer. It will accompany the comet as it grows in activity until their closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 and then as they head back towards the outer Solar System. 

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the Sun and its planets formed. By studying the gas, dust and structure of the nucleus and organic materials associated with the comet, via both remote and in situ observations, the Rosetta mission should become the key to unlocking the history and evolution of our Solar System, as well as answering questions regarding the origin of Earth's water and perhaps even life.

ABOUT ROSETTA 

Since its launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 2 March 2004, Rosetta has travelled more than six billion kilometres, passing by Earth three times and Mars once, and flying past two asteroids.

For the most distant part of the journey, when it travelled out to the orbit of Jupiter, Rosetta was put into deep-space hibernation for 31 months, waking up on 20 January 2014 for the final leg of its epic journey to Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. 

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its Member States and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES, and ASI. Rosetta is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet. It is escorting the comet as it comes close to the Sun, and will deploy a lander.

ON SITE BROADCAST OPPORTUNITIES 

ESA SPOKESPEOPLE 

EBU will provide play out and live positions for broadcasters at ESOC, including remote connection via satellite to facilitate interviews with ESA scientists and spokespeople. Please see contacts below for bookings. 

The following ESA spokespeople will be available for interview from ESOC in Darmstadt: 

  • Alvaro Gimenez, Director Science and Robotic Exploration, ESA: English,

    French, Spanish

  • Mark McCaughrean, Senior Scientific Advisor, Directorate of Science and

    Robotic Exploration, ESA: English, German

  • Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project Scientist, ESA: English

  • Gerhard Schwehm, Former Rosetta Mission Manager, ESA: English, German

  • Fred Jansen, Rosetta Mission Manager, ESA: Dutch, English 

To request an interview please contact: 

Eduardo Castaneda Bracho

ed@orlegi.co.uk 

mediarelations@orlegi.co.uk 

Tel: +44 1558822009

Mob: +44 7969574673

BROADCASTING SERVICES 

For EBU rates and to make a booking for stand ups, playouts, pieces to camera and any other broadcasting services please contact: 

Eurovision Operations 

newsoperations@eurovision.net

Tel: + 41 22 717 2840

ACCREDITATIONS AT ESOC 

The international media event will take place at ESA's Rosetta Mission Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. 

Broadcasters interested in sending a team to Darmstadt please apply before 22:59 GMT/23:59 CET on 26 October at: https://fs30.formsite.com/Rosetta2014/application/ 

Given the expected high demand and limits owing to logistical, security and health and safety constraints at each site, it is possible that not all applications will be successful. 

Applicants will be informed whether they have been successful or not on 30 October. 

ESA TV COVERAGE 

Before the landing ESA TV will provide the following videos: 

  • Description of landing operations

  • Science so far

  • Rosetta Journey

  • Why look at comets?

These videos are available for broadcasters on ESA TV FTP at http://www.esa.int/esatv/Television

Several Videos are also available about wake up, orbiting etc. And an index footage is being prepared covering the overall Mission operations from launch till now.

More extensive background footage is also available directly from the ESA Video Archive

Please contact Hugo Auffret +39 06 941 80877 spaceinvideos@esa.int

 

Live coverage of Landing Operations via satellite and on the ESA webstream + Livestream (All times in CET)

10 November

15:00              Media Update                                              Live from ESOC Press Centre

11 November

10:00              Media Update                                              Live from ESOC Press Centre

20:35              Go-NoGo No. 1                                            Live from ESOC Mission Control Room

12 November

Live From ESOC Mission Control Room:

  • 01:00: Flight Dynamics Command for separation ready on ground

  • 02:00: Flight Control Team merging orbiter and lander commands

  • 02:35 Confirmation of Lander Readiness for Separation

Live from ESOC MCR, Cologne LCC , Toulouse SONC:

07:15 – 08:35           TV PROGRAMME SLOT 1 : Go/No-Go 5 for lander separation      

09:30 – 10:10           TV PROGRAMME SLOT 2 :   Lander separation scheduled at 10:03        

12:30 – 13:15           TV PROGRAMME SLOT 3 :   Science and first pictures of lander expected around 13:00

15:30 – 17:30           TV PROGRAMME SLOT 4 : Science and Landing expected at 17:00      

19:00 earliest           TV PROGRAMME SLOT 5 : Presentation of First panoramic image from Comet      

All details will be available at

http://www.esa.int/esatv/Television 

Produced for:

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY

8-10 rue Mario Nikis, 75015 Paris, France

Media relations | Orlegi Ltd.

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