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|Rosetta is the first mission designed to orbit and land on a comet. It consists of an orbiter, carrying 11 science experiments, and a lander, called ‘Philae’, carrying 10 additional instruments, for the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted.
Rosetta gets its name from the famous Rosetta stone that led to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics almost 200 years ago. Similarly, scientists hope that Rosetta will unlock the mysteries of how the Solar System evolved.
Rosetta’s launch was originally scheduled for January 2003 on an Ariane-5 rocket. Rosetta’s target at that time was Comet 46P/Wirtanen, with the encounter planned for 2011. However, following the failure of the first Ariane ECA rocket, in December 2002, ESA and Arianespace took the joint decision not to launch Rosetta during its January 2003 launch window. This meant that Rosetta’s intended mission to Comet 46P/Wirtanen had to be abandoned.
In May 2003, a new target comet and launch date for Rosetta were selected: the spacecraft was launched in March 2004 and will meet its new target, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in 2014.
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