Rosetta’s Manager Tells Us How to Land on a Comet

Fred Jansen gives a TED Talk about the early considerations and first phases of the Rosetta mission.

Fred Jansen starts his TED Talk How to land on a comet with a discussion of the Big Bang. His explanation of the origin of the universe includes the idea that comets bombarded the earth bringing water resources and other organic material. The Kuiper Belt is the most interesting part of the universe to Jansen. The comets in the belt are “deep frozen versions of our solar system.”

A brief lesson on comets follows. Comets have the ion tail and the dust tail, along with a coma and a nucleus. Jansen believes that comets contain material as old as the universe itself, and that comets might have been responsible for kick starting the first life on earth.

The Rosetta Mission obtained approval in 1993 and was first planned for a 2003 launch. After a slight delay the launch took place in 1994 toward a different comet, Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet was selected because of its (relative) closeness to Earth and its (relatively) short time in the solar system.

Rosetta is responsible for several milestones, and is the first time a satellite orbited a comet and then followed the come through its entire solar system journey. Rosetta also marks the first travel past Jupiter using solar cells. The distance that Rosetta traveled was four times the distance from the Earth to the sun, and used several methods of propulsion to travel the great distance. Slingshot maneuvers, flyby maneuvers, and strategic periods of hibernations all helped Rosetta to meet its destination.

This is a fascinating talk for any space nerd, and Jansen is a great speaker with a wry sense of humor and great timing. As Rosetta makes its final touchdown on the comet this week it’s very interesting to see one of its managers discuss the origins and considerations of the mission.