CAREER ADVANCEMENT / DEC. 03, 2014
version 3, draft 3

What the Rosetta Mission can Teach us About Taking Risks

The Rosetta is a robotic space probe launched by the European Space Agency to study comet 67P. Rosetta not only sent a probe to the surface of the comet to study it, but the probe also orbits the comet for further observation. Although this may seem a little irrelevant there are many things we can learn from the Rosetta effort.

Image source: esa

Calculated Risk

Although a Rosetta type comet landing was never attempting in the past, more than 2000 individuals worked towards accomplishing this goal. Backing the effort was expertise and funds to minimize the risk and increase the chances of success. Although it was a high risk mission, it was also well calculated and researched. 

Never overlook the underdog

NASA is known worldwide for its space exploration, employment of large groups of brilliant scientists and its multiple space centers. The E.S.A. is a foundation that is twenty years younger than NASA and yet has successfully completed the first landing of a probe on a comet in the world (or galaxy? Not really sure there). With a third of the budget NASA has and roughly 8 times fewer employees, the ESA managed to make space exploration history.

Persistence and adhesion to goals

Rosetta was launched in March 2004 and reached the comet (including intermitted fly-bys) in November of 2014. Granted distances in space are unfathomable but the Rosetta at this point is currently 405 million kilometers away from Earth. That is about 3 times the distance between our beautiful blue marble and the Sun. It took ten years to reach that point but the scientific insight that will be gained from this mission will be immeasurable.

Timing

Preceding the landing of Rosetta’s probe Philae on the surface of the comet it was lying in wait. Rosetta was in deep space hibernation until the exact moment was right for it to move towards the comet. With the distances being as vast as those in space, a miscalculation would have sent Rosetta off course by millions of kilometers.

Use all available forces

During deep space maneuvering, the Rosetta used the gravity of Mars to correct its trajectory.

Adapting to unforeseen developments

During this “Gravity assisted” manoeuvre, the Rosetta was put on standby mode that didn’t allow communication. Further, it would have to shut off solar power and use its batteries to fly by Mars. This was affectionately nicknamed the “Billion Euro Gamble”. Not only was this manoeuvre successful but the Rosetta returned photos of Mars’ atmosphere and surface.

Measure risk to payoff ratio

Studying comets may be the key to understanding how the Solar system was created. Comets are composed of dust, ice and small rock particles and are considered the building blocks of the galaxy. Some scientists even postulate that it was comets that brought the first water to earth and might have even contained the basic materials that started life on earth. A risk that could allow us to look back at the beginning of time and the origin of life? I think that’s a risk we’ll worth taking.

Have you followed the Rosetta mission from its beginning? Is there anything that I might have left out or over looked? Then please share your knowledge in the comment section below. 

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