The European Rosetta mission arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014 after a 10-year journey through space. Three months later, the Philae robotic lander touched down on the comet – the first probe to do so in the history of mankind. It was a fantastic scientific adventure and an exceptional spaceflight project.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History in Berlin and the Max Planck Society, took more than 700.000 visitors between August 2016 and January 2017 on an impressive journey to the origins of the Solar System.
Comets - hairy stars! They come from the depths of the Solar System - most from regions far beyond the planets. Comets are unusual, spectacular and enigmatic celestial bodies that visit us occasionally. They are black lumps of ice and dust and as old as the Solar System itself.
Comets are the key to learning about the origin of our cosmic neighbourhood - and hence the Earth as well. Billions of comets inhabit the edge of the Solar System. Primordial material, almost unchanged for four and a half billion years.
What characteristics do these bodies have? What are they made of? How do they become active? Did the water in Earth’s oceans come here as cometary ice? Are the molecules present in the dust and ice of comets the original building blocks of life on Earth?
The European Rosetta comet mission was sent on a long journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2004 to find answers to these and many other questions. It reached its destination in August 2014, embarking on a compelling adventure of scientific discovery.
The special exhibition 'COMETS – The Rosetta mission: A journey to the origins of the Solar System' has been the main attraction at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin for the last six months. Conceived and prepared by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in cooperation with the world-famous Berlin museum and the Max Planck Society, the exhibition ended on 26 January 2017.
The Rosetta mission reached the end of its observation phase in late September when the orbiter touched down spectacularly on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gersimenko. By then, it had spent 4595 days in space, and had travelled 7.9 billion kilometres, performed a total of six fly-bys past Earth, Mars and two asteroids and accompanied Comet 67P during its journey through the Solar System on a mission lasting more than two years.
The Philae landing craft touched down on comet on 12 November 2014. It has now been found: it is not located at the convenient site originally selected for its landing, but rather – following a series of three bounces – in a grim and dark environment.
It's hard to say what surprised scientists and engineers the most during the Rosetta mission: the unusual form of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that earned it the nickname 'Rubber Duck'? The bizarre, unexpectedly varied landscape with fissures, terraces, crevasses, steep cliffs and even dune-like structures?