Tag Archives: Rosetta

Even Working In Space, We’re Human

Where’s the Kaboom? There’s supposed to be a…oh, there it is. What an exploded Titan looks like. Image hosted on List25.com

Just a few tidbits today, more to laugh about and maybe learn in the process. Yup, a person can still have fun while learning. These next few articles are good reminders that the human element is ever-present with space operations, and even if that isn’t, then Murphy just decides to take the helm.

Over the weekend, Gizmodo published a post showing some of the few self-inflicted problems that the space industry has faced. And these are the ones that we know about. Just imagine the many, many reviews that went into making sure what happened with the NOAA-19 satellite would never happen again. Imagine just working in that environment, with the extra few “Are you sure’s??” or “How do I know that…?” Uh-huh, great stuff.

As if some of these aren’t already on the lighter side of space (unless you were one of the poor saps involved–still funny though:-)), here’s a Twitter feed you may wish to look at. Called #WhyIGotFiredFromNASA, it’s a fun and light read about theoretical and playful scenarios that would’ve gotten a particular person fired from NASA. There may actually be some true situations in there, but the overall tone is one of fun and the occasional one-upping of each other.

And the last thing, in case you missed it. Quirky stick-figure cartoon XKCD was frantically posting updates to the site during Rosetta’s Philae foray. Thankfully, instead of having to page through the postings page-flip by page-flip, someone put it all together in a nice animated GIF. You can see it all right here on ExplainXKCD. It’s very obvious the artist loved the idea of Philae landing on the comet, and hopefully it catches on a bit more.


On Time, On Target? The Rosetta Mission

The next few hours or so will be interesting and hopefully history-making.  The European Space Agency (ESA) team has come so far with the Rosetta mission. If you don’t know what Rosetta is, in short: the Europeans have sent a spacecraft, Rosetta, to successfully intercept a comet over 400,000,000 km (about 250,000,000 miles) from Earth, and plan to land a very small probe, named Philae, on it (you can read some detail about the probe, here).

I hope their planning comes to full, successful, fruition. On 12 Nov, at 1602 UTC, the Philae lander will have hopefully made contact with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and securely harpooned itself to the comet’s surface. The lander will have already detached from the Rosetta spacecraft about 7 hours (around 0903 UTC) earlier and slowly made its way to the comet during that time.

So, at the risk of putting up a few more videos up on this site for a couple days in a row now, here’s one that ESA put out about two weeks ago. It’s a bit weird, kind of cool, and definitely highlights ESA’s marketing budget. It’s fun, nonetheless, and hopefully you haven’t seen it yet. It might be inspirational:

Then, if you want to watch the Rosetta operations team as they command and wait to see what happens with Philae and Rosetta as it’s all happening, go to this link: http://new.livestream.com/esa/cometlanding

There will be a lot of hurrying up and waiting, since radio communications take awhile between spacecraft and ground stations. If you can’t watch the video, but still want to follow along with the actions of the folks at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), try following them on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ESA_Rosetta

I wish them the best of luck–although I know they’ve worked hard enough to not just rely on that! As space operators everywhere do.


DIY Space: Print Your Own Spacecraft

3D model of Kepler. It’s yours, for free. Just go to the NASA 3D Resources site. That’s where this picture came from.

Have you ever wanted to build the Kepler satellite?  What about the current crowd favorite, the International Sun Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3)?  Or maybe you appreciate textures and just want to touch things, such as the moon’s surface, space shuttle flight panels (with switches),  or the surface of Chiron.  Maybe you’re a visual type, who truly appreciates images of NASA’s efforts in space.  If so, then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a great site for you.

Before you get excited, I must ask–do you have a 3-D printer?  If you do, terrific.  Even if you don’t, you might have access to one but don’t know it (a little bit more about this option later).  Either way, NASA’s site, “NASA 3D Resources (beta),” will probably be you’re favorite site for quite a while.  You can print out models, like the “New Horizons” spacecraft or the “Rosetta” satellite.  Maybe both.  Same for the textures and such.

The best part is these models is that NASA is providing these model files for FREE.  As in, it will only cost you whatever amount of electricity is needed to download the file and write to the storage drive.  Of course, you do need to have access to a 3D printer.  So if a friend of yours has one, maybe that person will be your best friend for a while.  Another option is the local library.  Yup, the library.  My local library just opened a Makerspace not too long ago, and among the nifty bits of equipment such as a laser cutter and a CNC machine, a 3D printer is available.  Or, if you have them in your area, go to the local Makerspace or TechShop.  While the library is probably one of the lowest cost options for us jobless, the others seem to have fairly reasonable rates for the different options they offer.

So, yes, you can build a NASA satellite.  They’re giving you the plans, and maybe you have the technology.  If so, have a great time!

Side note:  There’s a holiday Monday.  Not everyone takes that day off, but I intend to (likely I’ll be writing up the next post).  So, there will not be a post this Monday.  Enjoy Labor Day, my fellow ‘meruhcans.  The rest of you, have a great Monday.

Intercepting a Comet

Image of comet 67P/C-G. Image hosted on ESA’s Rosetta website.

“[T]he sexiest, most fantastic mission ever,” those are the words of an obviously very sexually confused European Space Agency scientist about the Rosetta satellite’s interception and orbiting of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  The quote comes from Gizmodo’s post about the current successes of the Rosetta satellite exploration mission.

And while the scientist might be sexually confused, thankfully there’s no confusion about the commands and science required to get Rosetta to the comet.  It has been successful, with Rosetta achieving orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 Aug., 2014.  Rosetta itself has been trying to catch up with the comet for a little over 10 years, which is a long time for any scientist, sexually confused or otherwise, to wait.

For those who aren’t keeping track, but have some small interest, Rosetta is important in helping us Earthlings understand the state of our Solar System millions of years ago.  The comet it’s now orbiting potentially has information about the building blocks of the Solar System.  The next big step is to get the satellite’s lander, Philae, on to the comet’s surface sometime in November (the ESA are currently aiming for 11 Nov., 2014).  But, right now, the ESA is content with taking readings and images of the comet.

In January 2014, I posted a blurb about how ESA had awakened Rosetta for its approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  That seems like such a long time ago, and now here we are, with Rosetta orbiting the comet.  I’m not going to say it’s sexy, but it is pretty nifty.  I’m not that confused.

If you want to follow the Rosetta satellite’s path, from launch through comet intercept and beyond, you can always go to this website:  http://sci.esa.int/where_is_rosetta/.  It’s just a looping animation of the satellite’s path, and you can witness, virtually, the interception of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with Rosetta.  Of course, you can read more about Rosetta’s mission on the ESA website, too, which is linked to here.

The ESA’s Rosetta Satellite: The Sleeper Awakes

On 20 January, 2014, a European Space Agency (ESA) comet-chasing satellite woke up for work.  According to this MSN.com article, the satellite, named Rosetta, was in hibernation for 31 months.  The ESA’s Rosetta satellite is waking up to meet with a certain comet in May 2014.  The “OK, I’m awake” signal was relayed to the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.  The ground station that first received the signal and then relayed it to the ESOC was the Goldstone Observatory in the Mojave Desert in California.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta then conducted two flybys of Earth, and one flyby of Mars and 2867 Steins (an asteroid).  It went into deep space hibernation in 2011, scheduled to wake up 31 months later.  Rosetta will rendezvous with a comet named Churyumov-Gerasimenko in May 2014.  Upon making the rendezvous, the satellite will release a lander, named Philae, which will land on the comet.  The lander has at least nine different kinds of sensors for data gathering.  Philae’s sensors, plus the 12 others on Rosetta (details here), will help ESA scientists make the most comprehensive study of a comet yet.

Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone and is hoped to provide the key to interpreting how the Solar System looked before planets formed.  Philae is the island on which Rosetta’s “decryption key” was found.  See what ESA did?

If you are curious, you can see Rosetta’s route—where it’s been and where it’s going.  Just go to this ESA link and watch it unfold before your eyes.  It will help you understand how Rosetta is using the planets to help change direction and speed.  It will also show you how this clever use eventually helps it match, more or less, the comet’s highly elliptical orbit.  It’s an interactive page, so don’t forget to zoom out and tilt, etc.