In November last year the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission made headlines as it released the Philae lander to make the first ever touch-down on a comet. Despite several unintended bounces, Philae came to rest and made unique measurements of the cometary environment before its batteries were drained. Although scientists still hope that Philae can be re-awakened there have so far been no signals from the lander. However, the Philae landing is just one aspect of a unique cometary mission.
Unlike its predecessors such as Giotto, which made exciting but fleeting flybys, Rosetta is the first mission to rendezvous with a comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) and then follow it throughout its approach to the Sun (closest approach on 13 August), providing the first close-up view of the development of cometary activity in unprecedented detail.
The many scientific instruments on Rosetta are providing fascinating insights into how comet work and clues to their origins in the early solar system. This exhibit will feature models of Rosetta, Philae and Ptolemy (the Open University’s instrument on the Philae lander), the famous ‘rubber duck’ comet model, 3-D images of the comet and highlights of the latest results from the mission.