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European Rosetta Space Craft About To Rendezvous With Comet

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the rosetta-about-to-meet-stone dept.

Space 62

Taco Cowboy (5327) writes After a long 10-year journey spanning some four (4) billion kilometers, Rosetta, an interplanetary space craft from the ESA (European Space Agency), is on its final approach to comet Comet 67P (or comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko). The last in a series of 10 thruster firings over the past few months has slowed Rosetta to the pace of a person walking, about two miles per hour relative to the speed of its target at a distance of about 60 miles. Photographs have already revealed a surprisingly irregular shape for the 2.5-mile-wide comet, possibly an amalgamation of two icy bodies or a result of uneven weathering during previous flybys. From a distance, the blurry blob initially looked somewhat like a rubber duck. As the details came into the focus, it now more resembles a knob of ginger flying through space. Wednesday marks a big moment for space exploration: After a few thruster rockets fire for a little over six minutes, Rosetta will be in position to make the first-ever rendezvous with that comet nickname 'Rubber Duck.' 'This burn, expected to start at 11 a.m. central European time, will tip Rosetta into the first leg of a series of triangular paths around the comet, according to the Paris-based European Space Agency, or ESA, which oversees the mission. Each leg will be about 100 kilometers (62 miles) long, and it will take Rosetta between three to four days to complete each leg. There will be a live streaming webcast of Rosetta's Aug. 6 orbital arrival starting at 8 a.m. GMT via a transmission from ESA's spacecraft operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Also at the BBC.

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bring back some ice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47611873)

Sell it to rich shits so they can show off how rich and shit they are.

Re: bring back some ice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47611945)

Envious much?

Re: bring back some ice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612073)

No. I don't even like ice.

Re: bring back some ice (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47613587)

I don't like him [wikipedia.org] either.

Re: bring back some ice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612013)

Why would we need to do that? We already have Apple products for that purpose.

Re: bring back some ice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612631)

And BMWs and Rolexes and Gucci bags and on and on. No need to single out Apple here.

Re: bring back some ice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47613461)

Wouldn't that be rolices?

Re: bring back some ice (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47613679)

Wouldn't that be rolices?

Since you have to ask, you can't afford them.

Even YOU don't read the articles... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47611889)

6.4 billion kilometers (4 Billion miles)

Be sure to watch the live event (5, Informative)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | about 4 months ago | (#47611901)

Our live webcast will be at www.esa.int starting at 10:00 CEST / 08:00 UT. Should be some cool new pictures of the comet to see.

(Disclaimer: I'll be one of the speakers :-)

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612067)

Is anyone worried that the harpoons might ricochet off the surface of the comet and compromise the lander's approach?

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (0)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#47612089)

no. but we hope if that happens, it doesn't result in the comet deciding to change course and pinball off Earth.

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612709)

Nah should be all fine and dandy. Couple billion people will provide some cushioning for when it hits, it'll be all fine nothing at all to be worried about guys!

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (1)

atom1c (2868995) | about 4 months ago | (#47612069)

Rock on!

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 months ago | (#47612169)

(Disclaimer: I'll be one of the speakers :-)

. . . will you be speaking live, from the spacecraft?

That would surely impress the finicky crowd here. And make us all jealous!

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (4, Funny)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | about 4 months ago | (#47612285)

Ha ;-) From the live event at ESA's mission control centre in Darmstadt.

That said, there are some colleagues I tried to have volunteer to go ...

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 months ago | (#47612471)

That was great! I didn't realise that there was an AFM on the probe to actually image sample particles. And the 3D printed model was a fantastic visual aid. Do you think that the 3D printer instructions for the comet will be shared?

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47613595)

Are you going to be the left speaker, the right speaker, or the middle subwoofer?

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47613969)

(Disclaimer: I'll be one of the speakers :-)

Then, on behalf of the rest of us, thanks for the continuing awesomeness of space exploration. :-P

Re:Be sure to watch the live event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47620031)

I know I am really late to the party. Just wanted to say congrats.

So Rosetta is going to orbit the comet all the way around the Sun, as well as land a probe on the comet? That is awesome. Very exciting stuff. I really hope every stage of the mission is 100% successful. Good luck. Good science.

Hope the Kerbals are safe (2)

able1234au (995975) | about 4 months ago | (#47611949)

Two miles per hour is much slower than i can get my Kerbal space ships. Of course, in that you are flying by the seat of your pants and another space ship is just a few clicks away. Still, it gives you a bit of an appreciation of what they have achieved with Rosetta.

Re:Hope the Kerbals are safe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47611985)

They're using MechJeb so it's really not that impressive.

The ESA video stream URL is (5, Informative)

atom1c (2868995) | about 4 months ago | (#47612075)

The URL is http://www.livestream.com/euro... [livestream.com]

I'm actually surprised that the post/summary doesn't include it (except for the incidental embedded version in the one article linked).

Yo! NAGASAKI! Look up! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612147)

Then duck and cover!
Alternatively:
Remove all sharp objects from pockets;
Bend over;
Kiss your ass good-bye!
Enola Gay
Burma Shave!

Why aren't space pictures better? (3, Interesting)

Bryan Ischo (893) | about 4 months ago | (#47612165)

I have always wondered why the photographs that come back from space are so grainy/blurry and have poor color reproduction. Why aren't the images clearer? Why don't we get to see movies instead of just crummy looking stills?

There *must* be a reason that they can't make photos that come from space exploration better or include full color videos so that we can see what these things would look like if we were really there.

I can only posit that either the radiation hardening necessary for space exploration somehow precludes the use of large CCD/CMOS sensors, or the bandwidth limitation of sending data from that far out makes anything other than tiny images with low resolution possible, and makes video impossible.

But still I can't help wondering why, if they can spend tens of millions to put these things up there, they can't produce better images for whatever millions are left over for on board equipment.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (2)

ghighi (1416473) | about 4 months ago | (#47612199)

I imagine that, given the price of sending any payload to space, fitting a real color, high res sensor of little scientific value must not be a priority. That being said we had some pretty bad ass shot from curiosity havn't we?

Europe don't make camera anymore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612245)

That space craft is from Europe, and the camera it carries was from the last batch of European made camera --- which was produced sometime back in 1970's

That explains why the picture sux so much !

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (5, Informative)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#47612273)

There are severe limits on sending antenna size and power use on the craft. They use a 2.2 meters diameter dish (seven feet), with 850W electric power from solar panels to transmit from a distance about one hundred thousand times greater than geostationary TV satellites.
      It's like the difference between whispering at someone's ear (half and inch away) and shouting for someone a mile away. I can't think of a car analogy on five orders of magnitude, but I'm sure someone will be more inspired

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (3, Funny)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | about 4 months ago | (#47612787)

It's like the difference between silently swearing at the idiot in the car right in front of you and honking in a traffic jam at some idiot a mile away.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (0)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47613973)

There are severe limits on sending antenna size and power use on the craft. They use a 2.2 meters diameter dish (seven feet), with 850W electric power from solar panels to transmit from a distance about one hundred thousand times greater than geostationary TV satellites. It's like the difference between whispering at someone's ear (half and inch away) and shouting for someone a mile away. I can't think of a car analogy on five orders of magnitude, but I'm sure someone will be more inspired

... and it's a digital signal from a digital camera, so none of that should affect image quality.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#47620505)

No, it only affects available bandwidth - the bytes per second and the bytes per watt (or maybe watts per bit?). Also, until now pictures were taken from astronomical distances and without the help of a huge optical apparatus, which would directly affect the apparent quality of the image.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47620819)

No, it only affects available bandwidth - the bytes per second and the bytes per watt (or maybe watts per bit?).

Exactly! So all that stuff about antenna size and signal power is irrelevant nonsense. A weak or noisy signal is not going to give them a grainy or blurry picture. It's going to give them a "Signal Lost" error message, and if it's important, the team will request a retransmission at a better bit rate. The image quality is solely dependent on the camera and optics (which are quite good, judging from the images I've seen. They are neither grainy nor blurry, but are crisp and sharp).

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#47620877)

If you can't send a 10MB image, but because of the restrictions in bandwidth you are limited to a 10kB image, you'll get a grainy, blurry image.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47625899)

Wow! Rosetta must be in a really peculiar part of space indeed if noise can be mis-interpreted as signal, flipping bits in such a way as to fool the the error correction coding, finding only those pieces of the data stream that are part of the image telemetry, working its way backwards through the compression algorithm (which has its own error detection protocols) so as to affect only the specific pixels required to blur the image.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612357)

In Rosetta's case, the OSIRIS cameras (one narrow angle, one wide angle) have a resolution 2048x2048. You have to remember Rosetta was launched in 2004, and I would guess the spacecraft hardware was finalized sometime before 2000. 4MP is actually a pretty good resolution for a digital camera from that era - for example the first consumer 4MP camera was the SONY DSC-S85 from 2001. OSIRIS has a whole load of filters it can use (see http://www.planetary.org/explore/resource-library/data/rosetta-osiris.html) which are mostly designed for science (e.g. looking for specific molecules), but do include separate RGB filters on the narrow angle camera, so colour images should be possible.

This. (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 4 months ago | (#47613713)

It has come up before when people compare technology to today's standards. This thing was launched 10 years ago, and designed years before that, and even then they are not going to use cutting edge stuff but rather time tested stuff that will not fail, because it won't actually be used for 10+ years. Try designing for that. Sure your iPhone might have a 10MP camera in it, but it only came out recently, and I don't know about you, but mine stopped working after 3 months.

Could you imagine spending the amount of money that they do, waiting 10+ years, and then finding out the camera doesn't work? Bummer.

Re:This. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47614761)

The early comet images I see on space.com look pretty damned good, actually. I'm sure with time they'll get more images and process and stitch them together better and we'll get some really nice big detailed screen wall-paper images.

Distance, power, and the harsh radioactive conditions of space do put a lot of constraints on imaging. Movies require a lot of mostly redundant images, which tax-payers don't want to pay for. It's rational to spend the money to image new things in new places rather than spend it on 5,000 frames of the same object for coolness alone.

Another issue is that sometimes a probe has to rotate cameras out of range so a different instrument gets prime access to a target, creating time-gaps.

With some frame "betweening" software, maybe a hobbyist can take some existing space footage and create a high-frame-rate-like experience. The mission to Eros seems to have a good set of images for such processing where the rotation angle changes roughly 1 degree per frame.

Instead of complain about jittery movies, that poster should roll up their nerd sleeves and tweenify existing stock. You don't have to fly into space, just fly into software. Boldly tween what no man has tweened before so that we can all live long and mentally prosper.

[Error: cliche rate exceeded threshold]

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

trumpetplayer (520581) | about 4 months ago | (#47616583)

That's totally correct. As far as I know, all detailed design for Osiris (including the power supply I designed while working at INTA) was carried out within the period 1998-2001 (with all the specs done long before that). The flight hardware test campaign was successfully completed sometime in 2001. This would be the equivalent to moving from development to production in the consumer world. One of the requirements for the power supply I designed was for it to operate in sync with the CCD electronics to minimize the electromagnetic noise (conducted and radiated), 650 kHz, somewhat challenging at the time. I mention this to highlight that an entire spacecraft is a lot noisier than a consumer camera, and this doesn't help high res, high dynamics pictures.

Why aren't space pictures better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612479)

Yeah, let's send 8000 MBit/s 1080p full HD video of a comet nucleus from the space probe.

How much bandwidth this requires and thus how much power generated shall be left as an exercise to the reader.

Reasons: radiation hardening, radiation, low light conditions, several images needed to create a bigger image, distances, everything is moving, power requirements of transmission, etc. etc. etc.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (2)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 4 months ago | (#47612499)

Also, in addition to the bandwidth and generation of equipment involved, consider the range from Rosetta to the comet when the photos were taken.

One of the photos includes a |---2km---| scale marker. That means the camera is a bit further out than a studio photographer and distance reduces both the image size and amount of light reaching the camera.

Also, the amount of light at the comet location is lower than in a photographic studio, so longer exposures are needed which increase the effect of craft shake and sensor noise.

Bandwidth & scientific value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612949)

I wouldn't even call myself an amateur astronomer since I'm just a curious layman but based on what I recall from various FAQs and articles related to all probes, bandwidth is very limited and still images are of limited value and from a scientific POV video adds absolutely nothing to still images. Engineers and scientists have to balance everything so carefully that they pretty much negotiate about every rotation of each wheel as a trade-off between scientific data and risk exposure to the rover. Thus, "entertainment value" is the very last consideration when payloads are decided. That said, when the day comes that a sample return mission to Mars comes back, I will consider it unforgivable if there aren't a few terabytes of 4k 50 fps video on the return probe. If I can order a wrist watch with 4 GB memory and an HD recording camera from China today, it cannot be too much to ask for that a few grams is reserved for such memory modules.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (2)

iktos (166530) | about 4 months ago | (#47614063)

If we were really there, the comet would look black, black, black and more black. And the shadows would be slightly, but probably imperceptibly, darker. The images are extremely enhanced to exagerrate the tiny variations of deep black.

The question of colour is interesting. Space probe cameras don't have RGB sensors, they're monochrome with lots and lots of switchable filters for specific purposes, like seeing seeing specific gases like nitrogen monohydride or a mineral like orthopyroxene, and many are in UV or IR. It's a bonus if the science lets you make more or less true colour images too.

The resolution will be much better when the probe gets close to the nucleus as the narrow field camera won't be able to see all of it at once. What I've seen so far seems to be only part of the full frame.

Re:Why aren't space pictures better? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47614113)

What grainy/blurry images? All of the images I've seen have been crystal clear, apart from the one where the comet is outgassing. Your guess about bandwidth limitations and video is probably correct.

Why aren't space pictures better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47614699)

1. Image quality is more to do with optics that sensor resolution. Optics are also much bigger/heavier. At the distances in question you'd want some serious optics juts to get anything, so chances are the mass budget of the spacecraft is limiting the image quality because they're bringing the biggest telephoto lens they can afford but at the ranges in question it's still not enough to make the comet "fill the frame".

2. The ghostly monochrome is probably because the image is predominately in infra red not the visible spectrum. As beyond a certain point the blackbody IR from the comet will out-weigh the reflected visible light from the Sun. Also most digital cameras are more sensitive to IR than the visible spectrum anyway.

3. Limitations on antenna size and power will enforce a bandwidth cap (which is shared with any other telemetry necessary for navigation or other sensors, which requires a trade off between higher resolution images and more images. Depending on how much "worse" the lower quality images are it might be better to do interpolation on more images than trying to get fewer slightly better images.

America stticks its fingers in its ears (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612241)

and goes LA LA LA LA! Because only America does space!

Re:America stticks its fingers in its ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612399)

There are several US-made instruments on board, so this is not a purely Euro operation.

Re: America stticks its fingers in its ears (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612489)

Stick your own fingers on your ass you fucking eurotard

Science presentations 11:00 UTC (2, Interesting)

coastwalker (307620) | about 4 months ago | (#47612509)

The live broadcast has been fairly interesting so far, they actually allowed a scientist pointing at a water spectrum graph to be broadcast. This is almost like being back in the 70's when they treated the audience as if they had done high school and were actually interested.

I do hope they put some of this up on Youtube

Re:Science presentations 11:00 UTC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612683)

Agreed, the broadcast was definitely aimed at the educated and interested viewer, especially when they cut to the mission control room, and asked some good questions to the actual people working on the project. I'm sure they'll cut out all that interesting information in the regular news at 8 tonight though. :)

I could have done without the big shots at the beginning, who waste my valuable time thanking all their research teams and funding bodies, with some random light-hearted jokes which provoked exactly zero laughter... but I guess that is normal at the start of every conference.

Re:Science presentations 11:00 UTC (1)

disposable60 (735022) | about 4 months ago | (#47615645)

I could have done without the big shots at the beginning, who waste my valuable time thanking all their research teams and funding bodies, with some random light-hearted jokes which provoked exactly zero laughter... but I guess that is normal at the start of every conference.

Every conference or project funded by some external, politically governed source. If you don't put on the brown lipstick before presenting the results, you won't be invited back to play.

Re:Science presentations 11:00 UTC (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47614135)

they actually allowed a scientist pointing at a water spectrum graph to be broadcast. This is almost like being back in the 70's when they treated the audience as if they had done high school and were actually interested

I wonder if this is a general difference in science reporting between Europe and North America?

Don't worry, I'm sure FOX will ignore all of the complicated sciency bits.

Where is Rosetta? (3, Interesting)

skastrik (971221) | about 4 months ago | (#47612515)

Here it is ... http://sci.esa.int/where_is_ro... [esa.int]
Roughly 23 light minutes away.

Glad someone is doing it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612821)

As an American, it depresses me that this is an ESA mission and that the NASA budget is again being dithered away on yet another politically viable (i.e. all the right contractors and congressional districts involved) reimagining of launch technology that has not changed markedly since the 70s. Just typing that hurt. But, really cool and I'm glad someone's doing this!

When are AFRICANS going to do this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47612885)

Oh, wait... they can't. Their average IQ is only 70, but "Race is just a social construct".

So can any Slashdot liberals (i.e. insane people) explain why the hundreds of millions of Africans on Earth are unable to do this?

Re:When are AFRICANS going to do this? (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about 4 months ago | (#47622133)

I think you are a liberal pretending to be a racist conservative.

Sponsor (0)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#47613167)

Is the probe sponsored by the company that makes the language learning software?

Final approach to commet Commet 67P (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47613195)

Fucking morons.

looks like we've got ourselves a convoy (1)

aberson (461047) | about 4 months ago | (#47613935)

I said Rosetta, this here's the Rubber Duck, and we ain't gonna pay no toll. So we crashed the gate, doing 98 (m/s), said let them truckers roll, 10-4.

http://youtu.be/0gu2_ALY7oA#t=... [youtu.be]

looks like we've got ourselves a convoy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47618223)

That, is just, AWESOME

Rosetta photo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47615211)

Looks like the Firefly covered by dust and rock....

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