ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has completed its longest burn to chase down comet 67P/C-G Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The almost eight hours of maneuvring slowed the spacecraft to the same speed as the comet.
It was intended to take out a big chunk (almost 300m/s) of the velocity Rosetta had (755m/s) with respect to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Now the craft will take a rather odd path to get to its final destination so that it can land before the comet starts warming up and really starts ejecting material due to interactions with the Sun and other bodies in the solar system.
Once the craft is close enough the Philae lander will (hopefully) touch down on the surface of comet just like the illustration from the ESA above.
In a dramatic moment (insert DUN DUN DUHHHH! music here) the burn caused some concern because of a leak in the pressure and propellant tank system. The leak wouln’t have blown the spacecraft up, but it might have made the burn rate uneven resulting in the spacecraft missing the target.
This is good news for the Discovery Channel when they make their documentary about this, the will be able to add the expected drama to make science more enjoyable. After all, it can’t always be shark week.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +