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Rosetta Probe Successfully Launched

By | March 8, 2004

      After one or two delays, Arianespace successfully launched the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta probe March 2. Rosetta is scheduled to reach the comet Churyumov- Gerasimenko in 2014 after three flybys of Earth and one of Mars. It is regarded as one of the most challenging missions of its kind.

      Rosetta is the first probe designed to enter orbit around a comet’s nucleus and to release a lander onto its surface. ESA’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain commented, “After the recent success of Mars Express, Europe is now heading to deep space with another fantastic mission.” The Rosetta space probe will have a close encounter with Mars in 2007, and it will approach to a distance of about 200 kilometers, allowing it to conduct science observations.

      Rosetta’s launch originally had been scheduled for January 2003 on board an Ariane-5 rocket. The initial target had been Comet Wirtanen, but because of the failure of Ariane Flight 157 in December 2002 coupled with the loss of two spacecraft, ESA and Arianespace decided not to launch Rosetta at that time.

      Arianespace also announced this week that it along with Starsem — the Soyuz company — had signed a deal with ESA that has it launching two experimental Galileo satellites via two Soyuz launch vehicles. The first launch is scheduled for the end of 2005.

      –Mark Holmes

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