December 19th, 2014

Rosetta Mission was marked by Ascension Island Post is glad to inform that Ascension Island sent its congratulations to the ESA and all involved in the Rosetta Mission with a new postage issue. The philatelic release consists of four stamps that are scheduled to be put into circulation on the 30th of December.

Comets have inspired awe and wonder since the dawn of history. Many scientists today believe that comets crashed into Earth in its formative period spewing organic molecules that were crucial to the growth of life. Comets may have formed about the same time as the giant planets of our solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) ‒ about 4.6 billion years ago.

Some scientists think that comets and planets were both made from the same clumps of dust and ice that spewed from our Sun's birth; others think that these roving time capsules are even older than that, and that they may contain grains of interstellar stuff that is even older than our solar system!

Rosetta is a robotic space probe launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). Along with its lander module, Philae, Rosetta's ten-year mission was to catch the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) and to answer some of our questions about comets.

The Rosetta spacecraft is named after the ancient Rosetta Stone that you can visit in London's British Museum. The Philae lander is named after the Philae Obelisk which, together with the Rosetta Stone, provided the key to our first understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Scientists hope that the Rosetta spacecraft will enable us to translate the even older language of comets, as expressed by their thermal signatures, into new knowledge about the origins of our solar system and, perhaps, life on Earth. This daring international mission is spearheaded by the ESA with key support and instruments from NASA.

The launch of Rosetta was a particular challenge as it was the first time Ariane 5 had placed a spacecraft onto an Earth-escape trajectory. To do this, an unprecedented delayed ignition of the Ariane 5 upper stage was needed.

106 minutes after Rosetta had been placed into space the upper stage ignited and powered Rosetta away from the Earth towards its icy rendezvous. Despite the hundreds of millions of kilometres that Rosetta would eventually travel 99.8% of the propellant needed for the mission was consumed during the first hundred kilometres as the rocket struggled to slice a path through the atmosphere and escape Earth's gravity.

"After more than 10 years travelling through space, we're now making the best ever scientific analysis of one of the oldest remnants of our Solar System", said Alvaro Giménez, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. "Decades of preparation have paved the way for today's success, ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration".
Although the future of the lander Philae is uncertain, Rosetta is the workhorse of the mission and its work will continue as it escorts the comet around the sun.

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