Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Rosetta is passing by ...

... making its closest approach to the earth later today (at 20:57 UTC, 13th November). The Rosetta spacecraft is on its way to meet, orbit, and land on a comet; this earth pass is a gravity assist manoeuvre to modify its orbit (it beats using a lot of fuel and money).

But you'd be lucky to learn any of this from a casual glance at the project's website. As for me: if I were running the world's second-ranked planetary science programme, I would be making sure that the websites for my missions were better than those of the competition. PR matters. I am not asking for mere empty slickness: Lord knows there is enough of that already. But do none of these people have primary- or high-school-age children who they want to enthuse about the solar system?


UPDATE: And right on cue, they do post a news item: Rosetta Second Earth Swing-by, on the bottom left of the page. I suppose it's better late than never. Actually I am being a little unfair as there is an ESA page on Rosetta, separate to the project home page, where there seems to have been a suitably public fuss for a while. So watching the project's own homepage appears to be a bad way of finding out what's going on, unless one wants to read every fine detail ...

For those interested in the misidentification of Rosetta as a previously unknown asteroid, about to make a close pass of he earth: see the comments below.


Hecta said...

According to the (highly intellectual) back page of the SMH, Rosetta got itself mistaken for a "potentially hazardous asteroid". The Sky Survey mob named it "VN84" and thought it would miss earth by just 12,000 kms. Impressive.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Yes it's nice to know that the system works.

The Minor Planet Electronic Circular that corrects the mistaken-identity error goes on to harrumph that This incident, along with previous NEOCP postings of the WMAP spacecraft, highlights the deplorable state of availability of positional information on distant artificial objects (whether in earth orbit or in solar orbit)... A single source for information on all distant artificial objects would be very desirable."

BTW, the SMH article is online here. I notice from their wording that they also read the MPECircular quoted above.