On Sunday 25 February, ESA’s probe Rosetta, currently on a ten-year journey to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, will make its closest approach to the planet Mars, coming within 250 kilometres of its surface.

The critical close swingby of Mars is needed to use the gravity of Mars to modify the spacecraft’s speed and direction. Rosetta will emerge from its martian encounter pointed towards its next target, Earth ! It arrives for a second swingby of our home planet on 13 November (the first having already taken place on 4 March 2005).

To take advantage of this upcoming closest of encounters with the Red Planet, Rosetta’s instruments – as well as those on its lander – will be switched on over predefined time slots to perform a series of scientific observations, including planetary imaging. Flight controllers at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) have already set everything ready for this crucial manoeuvre.

Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004

Launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket, Rosetta is the first probe ever designed to enter orbit around a comet’s nucleus and release a lander onto its surface. Arriving at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, the probe will take over a year to conduct a thorough scientific study of this remnant of the primitive nebula which gave birth to our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago. By the end of its epic journey, Rosetta will have performed three Earth and one Mars swingbys in all. It will also have studied asteroids Steins and Lutetia, in September 2008 and July 2010 respectively.

Media representatives wishing to follow this Rosetta Mars swingby from the ESOC control centre in Darmstadt/Germany are requested to complete and return the attached reply form.

For further information, please contact :

ESA Communication Department
Media Relations Office
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Rosetta Mars swingby

25 February 2007, 2 a.m. start

02:00 Doors open & Filming opportunity in Mission Control Room

02:40 Welcome by David Southwood, ESA Director of Science Programme

02:50 Mars swingby flight dynamics, Uwe Feucht, Head of Flight Dynamics Division/Team

03:00 En route science, first images, Gerhard Schwehm, Head of Solar System Science Operations Division & Rosetta Mission Manager

03:10 Introductory comments on approach ; Paolo Ferri, Head of Solar and Planetary Missions Division and Rosetta Flight Operations Director Comments on eclipse, Andrea Accomazzo, Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager Comments on closest approach/eclipse, Andrea Accomazzo & Paolo Ferri

03:17 Ground stations, Manfred Lugert, Head of Ground Facilities Operations Division

03:30 Updates after end of eclipse

03:40 Comments on eclipse end and telemetry acquisition, Andrea Accomazzo,

03:52 Conclusions, Manfred Warhaut, Head of Mission Operations Department

04:00 End of event