Rosetta Spacecraft Visits the Lutetia Asteroid - SpacePod 2010.07.12

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We sure do like pretty pictures here at Spacevidcast. The latest stunning imagery comes from our friends ov...
We sure do like pretty pictures here at Spacevidcast. The latest stunning imagery comes from our friends over at ESA. The Rosetta spacecraft flew only 3,162 kilometers or just under 2,000 miles from the Lutetia asteroid on July 10th, 2010. This asteroid is about 130 kilometers in diameter and is the largest asteroid ever visited by a spacecraft. Check out a few of the images that Rosetta took. Notice the heavily cratered surface much like our moon. That would come from billions of years of impacts with other objects. To put the size of this asteroid in to perspective, it is about 1/13th the size of our own moon at 130 kilometers as opposed to 1,737 kilometers for good ol' Luna.Lutetia is not the final destination for Rosetta, just a little stop along the way. In 2014 the spacecraft should rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where it will not only orbit the comet, but also place a lander on its surface!Like many spacecraft these days, the Rosetta craft has not been without its issues, and the mission isn't even done yet! Originally the craft was to be launched in January 2003 with a rendezvous target of 46P/Wirtanen in 2011. However this plan had to be abandoned after an Ariane 5 rocket failed to launch on time. A new plan was formed to launch in February 2004 with the new target of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After 2 more launch scrubs, which we all know and love, the Rosetta spacecraft finally took flight on March 2nd, 2004.However, this late launch date was not without consequence. On February 25, 2007 the spacecraft had to perform a low-altitude bypass of Mars to correct trajectory due to the later launch date. How low? About 250 kilometers or 155 miles! During this time the solar panels could not be used as they would be in the shadow of Mars for 15 minutes, which forced engineers to put the craft in to standby mode and hope the batteries would last. Of course the batteries were not designed for this and it would cause a very dangerous shortage of power. This created the nickname "The billion dollar gamble" for this particular maneuver. Of course Rocket scientists really know how to gamble and the flyby was a smashing success!Here's hoping Rosetta has a continued safe journey and we get even more stunning imagery and science from the craft for years to come!Space geeks, our show doesn't end here! Remember to subscribe to us in iTunes and help make Spacevidcast the #1 space related podcast in the iTunes Podcast directory! Leave your comments and let us know what you think. And don't forget to check out our Live show this Friday at 0200 hours coordinated universal time where we'll have guest Dennis Wingo the author of "Moonrush" joining us. We'll be talking about the moon and how it can be utilized to better life here on Earth. Ever have a friend ask why we should go back to the Moon and on to Mars? Dennis has the answers! For those in the US that would be Thursday night at 7:00pm pacific daylight time, 8:00pm mountain daylight time, 9:00pm central daylight time or 10:00pm eastern daylight time. You can watch on your computer, iPhone, iPad or Roku box live, and we'll see you there!