Scientists claim the mission is key to discovering how life came to earth while conspiracy theorists dispute that it is actually alien lifeform coming to Earth. Read on to discover everything you need to know about the Rosetta Mission – heralded as one of the greatest achievements in space exploration.
On November 12th 2014 at 4.03 pm, on a dark and icy comet 320 million miles away, the history-making Philae spacecraft came to a rest. After bouncing around a few times, it managed to landed perfectly intact near a steep cliff side. It is sleeping now, its batteries depleted until there is enough sunlight to recharge.
While the lander has finished its preliminary job, now comes the arduous task of collecting invaluable data on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. For many scientists, the Rosetta Mission is the beginning of untold discoveries and gateways to new understanding about the start of the solar system as we know it. Rosetta’s job is not only to observe what is actually happening on the comet from close up, but to probe the interior of the comet and map its different layers.
Professor Coates from MSSL, who are co-investigators in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium, said: “This is a mission to understand more about a relic from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. By studying a comet close up on the surface we can sniff, taste and analyse this primitive material. This can give clues as to where Earth’s water came from, and even how some carbon-bearing compound brought by comets may have brought the building blocks of life to Earth. It is what we are all made of. It will help us to understand mankind’s place in the universe.”
It is hoped that the spaceship will keep working and sending back data deep into 2016.
CONSPIRACY THEORISTS CLAIM COMET IS UFO
Whenever a monumental event like this takes place the conspiracy theorists are not far behind. One of the most interesting claims was made by Scott Waring of the website UFO Sightings Daily.
Waring alleges that he received an email from an anonymous ESA ‘whistle blower’ claiming intelligent-sounding signals had been received from the comet 20 years ago and the object is actually an alien ship in disguise.
“Comet 67P is not a comet,” the email stated. “Do not think for one moment that a space agency would suddenly decide to spend billions of dollars to build and send a spacecraft on a 12-year journey to simply take some close-up images of a randomly-picked-out comet floating in space.”
Another post from ex-naval electronics warfare technician, Carl Blackman, on the website BPEarthWatch said: “Definitely not a natural signal, there is intelligent based stuff going on here.”
According to reports, 67P is emitting a natural signal at 40-50 millihertz that, when amplified a few thousand times, sounds like a familiar sound – that of music. It was apparently heard clearly by the magnetometer experiment for the first time in August, when Rosetta drew to within 100 km of the comet.
Scientists, however, believe that the sound is produced by the activity of the comet, as it releases neutral particles into space where they become electrically charged due to a process called ionisation.
A DECADE IN THE MAKING
The Rosetta Mission was initiated over a decade ago when scientists and engineers from the European Space Agency control centre in Dermstadt, Germany started the project to land on a moving comet in space.
Previous spacecraft have visited seven different comets, but nearly all missions were quick fly-bys. In 2005, the Deep Impact mission fired an impactor into comet Temple 1, blasting a cloud of debris that could then be analysed. All these missions studied the comet at a single point in time, but comets are dynamic objects, their characteristics defined by change. They suddenly appear in the sky, growing brighter and brighter with their tails stretching longer and longer. Then just as they appeared, they shrink and fade.
Future missions being planned involve the Comet Hopper project, which proposes the idea of a spacecraft hopping from place to place on a comet to study differences on the surfaces – but until then Rosetta has centre stage and the show is about to begin!
Watch this space in Marbella Rocks to learn more about and the all-important Space Rock’s Mission.
FOLLOW THE MISSION
The entire mission has also featured heavily in social media, with a Facebook account for the mission at Facebook.com/RosettaMission and both the satellite and the lander having an official Twitter account through Twitter.com/esa_rosetta.
If you want to follow the live action from Rosetta, the hashtag #CometLanding is also gaining widespread traction. A live stream of the control centre has been set up, as well as multiple official and unofficial events around the world to follow Philae ’s landing.