UK Rosetta press briefing


UK Rosetta Media Briefing
Rosetta rendezvous with a new cometary target

Thursday 19th February 2004
Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London
10.30 am 2.00 pm including lunch

The European Space Agency's pioneering Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is scheduled for launch from Europe's spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, on February 26th 2004 (0716 GMT).

Members of the media are cordially invited to attend a pre-launch press briefing at the The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y on Thursday 19th February commencing at 10.30 a.m.

The briefing by UK scientists, industrialists and representatives from ESA and PPARC will provide an insight into the mission, its new target, its scientific objectives and the UK's contribution.


  • 10.00 a.m. Registration and coffee
  • 10.30 a.m. Science presentations
  • 11.30 a.m. Q and A's
  • 11.45 a.m. Interview Opportunities
  • 12.00 p.m. Lunch
  • 14.00 p.m. End of briefing


  • Welcome
    Professor Richard Wade, Director of Programmes
    Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council

  • Introduction
    Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation

  • Setting the context Europe in Space
    Professor David Southwood, Director of Science
    European Space Agency

  • Rosetta Overview
    Dr Gerhard Schwehm, ESA Rosetta Project Scientist tbc

  • UK science involvement in Rosetta
    Dr Ian Wright, Open University
    (Principal Investigator PTOLEMY experiment)

    Dr Chris Carr, Imperial College London
    (Joint Principal Investigator, Rosetta Plasma Consortium)

  • UK industrial involvement in Rosetta
    Dr Mike Healy, EADS Astrium,
    Director of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science

    In addition a number other scientists and industrialists will be available for interview and comment. A full list will be provided in the press pack.

    Media Registration:
    To confirm your attendance please contact Gill Ormrod in the PPARC press office.
    Tel: 01793-442012.
    Email: [email protected]">[email protected]

    A map of how to find the Royal Society can be found at:-
    Closest underground station is Piccadilly Circus

    A Video News Release and press pack will be available on the day.
    There will be a model of the Rosetta spacecraft plus various background displays.

    New Target
    Rosetta was originally intended to rendezvous with comet 46P/Wirtanen, but, after the launch was delayed in January 2003, the target was changed to another regular visitor to the inner Solar System, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

    Mission objectives:
    To study the origin of comets, the relationship between interstellar material and and its implications with regard to the origin of the Solar System. The measurements to be made to achieve this are:

  • Global characterisation of the nucleus, determination of dynamic properties, surface morphology and composition;
  • Determination of the chemical, mineralogical and isotopic compositions of volatiles and refractories in a cometary nucleus;
  • Determination of the physical properties and interrelation of volatiles and refractories in a cometary nucleus;
  • Study of the development of cometary activity and the processes in the surface layer of the nucleus and the inner coma (dust/gas interaction);
  • Global characterisation of asteroids, including determination of dynamic properties, surface morphology and composition.

    Launch and Flight:
    The nominal date for launch of Rosetta is 26th February 2004 (07:16 GMT). The launch window runs from 26th February until 17th March. Rosetta will be launched on an Ariane 5 from Kourou in French Guiana. Under the revised flight plan Rosetta will make one flyby of Mars and three flybys of Earth before landing on the comet in November 2014.

    UK Science Involvement:
    The UK has instruments on both the orbiter and lander, with involvement from several university groups. In particular, the PTOLEMY experiment onboard the lander, for which the Open University has Principal Investigator Status, will decipher the complex interacting chemistry of light elements in the comet. Imperial College London is one of the six Principal Investigator groups within the Rosetta Science Plasma Consortium (RPC) group of instruments on the orbiter, providing the hardware that interfaces the plasma sensors with the spacecraft. RPC will study the plasma environment of the comet, particularly the interaction of the plasma with the dust and gas materials ejected.

    Other institutes involved are:-
    Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UCL)
    Oxford University
    Queen Mary University of London
    University of Sheffield
    University of Wales
    Armagh Observatory
    Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

    UK industrial involvement:
    Several UK industrial companies have supplied critical components, assemblies and software for the Rosetta spacecraft including Astrium (orbit control and propulsion), Logica (onboard software autonomy), SciSys (satellite control and operations system).

    Source: Eurekalert & others

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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