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Emily LakdawallaFebruary 25, 2007

Rosetta Was Here

Doug included this image in his blog entry below but I thought it was so amazing that I wanted to write about it too.

Rosetta Was Here

CIVA / Philae / ESA Rosetta

Rosetta Was Here
This amazing view was captured by the CIVA camera on Rosetta's Philae lander just four minutes before its closest approach to Mars on February 25, 2007. The spacecraft was only 1,000 kilometers above the planet. Part of the spacecraft bus fills the view on the left side, and one of the long solar panels stretches out across the center. In the background is the globe of Mars, the view looking down on Cydonia mensae. The original photo was black-and-white; this version is colorized.

What you're seeing here is a view out the airplane window as Rosetta flew by Mars. The Philae lander, whose CIVA camera took this photo, was a passenger for this ride, bolted to the side of the Rosetta spacecraft. Can you imagine staring at black space for years, then seeing a reddish pinprick of light begin slowly to wax, then, over the course of just a few days, swell into a giant globe that fills your sky, then watch it trail away again as a crescent, leaving you alone in space again? Philae was along for that ride, and its snapshots will all contain parts of the Rosetta spacecraft in the foreground. I hope there were more pictures, taken at different times.

I've been trying to figure out why I get such a thrill from seeing pictures of spacecraft in space (or on a foreign planet). After all, that's not what the spacecraft were sent for -- they were sent to get pictures and data of these foreign places, not of themselves. I guess it's for the same reason that, when I travel, I hand my camera to passers-by and ask them to take photos of me standing in front of this or that landmark. It's a way of proving to myself that "I was here."

Rosetta Was Here.

Read more: best of, mission status, pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, Mars, Rosetta and Philae

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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