Did You Know ...

... that ZEISS products are orbiting a comet?

Is it going to respond or not? That was the question on 12 March 2015, as the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe attempted for the first time in several months to receive signals from the Philae landing unit, situated 500 million kilometers from Earth on the Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet. For now, however, the minilab is still asleep. The comet's orbit is set to move closer to the sun, and the hope is that the lander will then absorb more solar energy – enabling it to become active once again and send more information back to Earth.

The mission of the Rosetta European mother space probe is highly successful. After all, it managed to land Philae on the comet following a ten-year journey through space. Two highly complex spectrometer systems fitted with gratings from ZEISS played a key role in the process: Rosetta features a VIRTIS-H with high resolution and a VIRTIS-M with medium resolution in the infrared and visible spectral ranges. Together with cameras, these were used to determine the optimal landing place for Philae at two to three meter precision.
Dr. Klaus Heidemann, who worked on the development and production of the Rosetta gratings from 1997 to 2000, comments: "We developed the optical gratings specially for the spectroscopic requirements of the Rosetta mission and produced them using highly complex technology. The result is the most complex grating we've ever made."

The instruments in the Philae minilab worked for two days, and valuable data about the properties of the comet was sent back to Earth. After this, the lander's battery was exhausted as planned. Now, the researchers are waiting for the second, solar-powered battery unit to charge. Regardless, the Rosetta probe continues to take a close-up look at the comet using its eleven instruments. The mission is set to last until the end of 2015. So the ZEISS spectral gratings on the mother probe will continue to circle the comet for a while yet.


29 April 2015