Rosetta is now in the final phase of its approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a decade-long journey. The two largest burns have now succeeded, and Rosetta reported this morning via Twitter that the second burn was close to perfect.
Rosetta and Philae have very nearly completed a six-week phase of spacecraft and instrument checkouts to prepare the mission to do science. Recently, the lander used its cameras for the first time since hibernation, producing some new photos of Rosetta in space.
Rosetta's comet target, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has emerged from behind the Sun as seen from Earth, and the Very Large Telescope has photographed it. The new images show that cometary activity has already begun as Rosetta approaches for its August rendezvous.
With the New Year upon us, what can we look forward to in 2014? For me, the main event of 2014 is that ESA's Rosetta mission finally -- finally! -- catches up to the comet it has been chasing for a decade. We will lose LADEE, gain two Mars orbiters, and launch Hayabusa2. The year begins with an amazing 24 spacecraft exploring or cruising toward various planetary destinations.
A summary of just one talk from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, by Lindy Elkins-Tanton, which provided a neat explanation for how asteroids can be melted and layered on the inside yet have a primitive-looking exterior.
A long-awaited data set is finally public (well, long-awaited by me, at least). The Rosetta team has now published their data from the July 10, 2010 flyby of asteroid (21) Lutetia. This data set is absolutely stunning, and my friends in the amateur image processing community wasted no time in creating art out of it.
On February 24, 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft passed by Mars, the second of four planetary gravity-assist flybys on its long route to a 2014 rendezvous with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At the time, they released two photos from the main science camera, OSIRIS.
Here is a really cool view of Phobos in the foreground with gigantic (but very distant) Jupiter sitting in the background, a fortuitous alignment that the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera team took advantage of on June 1.
One big space event that I missed while I was on vacation was Rosetta's entry into hibernation. Rosetta is the biggest interplanetary spacecraft that has been launched by ESA, and it has the groundbreaking goal of entering orbit around a comet and dropping a lander onto it.