Rights: © Copyright 2015. University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 27 August 2015 Download

The Rosetta spacecraft was subjected to vigorous testing prior to launch. The testing then continued after the Rosetta was launched in 2004. Scientists used every opportunity on Rosetta’s 10-year journey to Comet 67P to test various components of the spacecraft.

Rosetta mission engineer Warwick Holmes explains some of the tests.

Point of interest

Warwick refers to the distance from Sydney to Melbourne. In a New Zealand context, this would be the distance from Whangarei to Wellington or from Nelson to Dunedin.



We started the mission. As we flew past any planetary bodies, we turned on all the instruments we could to be sure that they were working before we got out to the comet, and this is a little selfie we took with Philae, the lander, looking over the shoulder of the solar panel from Rosetta and looking down onto Mars just 250 kilometres below us travelling at 26 000 kilometres an hour.

As we flew past, we took some images of Mars. We have 17 different coloured filters, and we exercised all of them, and this tells us what the components of the chemistry of the atmosphere of Mars are, for example, which, one day, we’ll be doing the same thing when we get to the comet.

Then we carried on. We went past Asteroid Šteins for a flyby. This is 800 kilometres from the asteroid, which is the distance from Sydney to Melbourne – sorry, I don’t know the New Zealand equivalent to that.

So we’ve got very powerful cameras to zoom in and get these images as we were flying through the asteroid belt to, again, exercise some of our instruments for when we got to the comet.

The Science Learning Hub would like to acknowledge the following for their contribution to this resource:
Warwick Holmes
Lecture video footage courtesy of the University of Waikato
Filtered images of Mars and flyby footage of Asteroid Šteins courtesy of ESA – European Space Agency