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Science & Exploration

N° 20–1999: Rosetta - ESA's new comet chaser

18 June 1999

At a press event to be held on Thursday 1 July at the Royal Society in London (6 Carlton House Terrace), the European Space Agency's Director of Science, Professor Roger Bonnet, will present the next mission in ESA's ambitious comet exploration programme and unveil a quarter-sized high-fidelity model of the Rosetta orbiter and lander.

The Rosetta orbiter will literally chase comet Wirtanen for two years, sending back valuable data and ensuring Europe retains its lead in comet science. A lander will attach itself to this lump of frozen ice and dust, which is travelling through space at over 130,000 kilometres per hour, and analyse samples.

Just as the re-discovery of the Rosetta Stone, 200 years ago, enabled the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to be unrravelled, so the Rosetta mission will help scientists learn even more about comets, the most primitive objects in the solar system.

In 1986, ESA's Giotto spacecraft flew into the tail of Halley's Comet. That was ESA's first interplanetary mission and it was hailed as an outstanding success. The pictures and scientific data that Giotto sent back placed Europe at the forefront of comet science.

Notes for Editors :

On the day of the press event, the now deactivated Giotto spacecraft will do an Earth flyby 13 years after its encounter with Halley's Comet.

The British Museum is celebrating 200-years anniversary of the Rosetta Stone, with an exhibition that includes a model of its modern equivalent, the Rosetta spacecraft.

For further information, please contact :

ESA Public Relations Division
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)


Press Event, Thursday 1st July 1999

11:00 Introduction : Peter Evans (Journalist - Moderator)

11:05 PPARC/BNSC : (BNSC Representative)

11:10 British Museum : (British Museum Representative)

11:15 Unveiling the Rosetta Model by Prof. Roger Bonnet, Director of Science, ESA

11:20 ESA and Comet Science : Why is the ESA space science programme so advanced in comet science by Prof. Roger Bonnet

11:30 Scientific Objectives : What and why by Gerhard Schwehm, Rosetta Project Scientist 11:40 Chasing and Landing on a comet : How Rosetta is going to get to the comet land on it and chase it by Bruno Gardini, Rosetta Project Manager.

11:50 Questions and Answers session