The Rosetta mission, being undertaken by ESA, aims to research the history of how our Solar System was formed by investigating one of the oldest and most primordial of heavenly bodies, a comet. The mission consists of one orbiter and the Philae lander. DLR played a major role in building the lander and runs the lander control centre which is preparing for and overseeing the difficult task of landing on the comet, a feat never before accomplished.
Surface structures are becoming visible in new images of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These images, with a resolution of 100 metres per pixel, were acquired with the OSIRIS scientific imaging system on board Rosetta. The comet's neck region - the section connecting the two heads - seems to be much brighter than the head and body of the nucleus.
Comets have irregular and rather potato-like shapes – this is a well-known fact. But the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on which the Philae lander is scheduled to descend in November 2014, has an unexpected shape.
The European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft and its lander Philae are currently around two million kilometres from their target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even at this distance, images acquired by the OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) camera system already show the comet awakening on its way towards the Sun, enveloped in a cloud of small dust particles. Using these observations, the OSIRIS science team, which includes planetary researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), have been able to determine the comet’s rotation period with additional precision – 12.4 hours. In August, Rosetta will arrive at the comet, and will deploy the Philae lander onto the comet’s surface in November – the first ever landing on a comet.