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Understanding Science Seminar: Following Spacecraft Rosetta on its Historic Mission

On November 19, Prof. Rafael Rodrigo, Executive Director of the International Space Science Institute in Bern, gave a Understanding Science Talk on Conquering the comet: the historic mission of spacecraft Rosetta. The Lecture was given at House Café, a coffeehouse in Beijing’s university district Wudaokou. More than 50 young students listened to Prof. Rodrigo’s explanation on how the spacecraft for the first time rendezvoused with a comet and successfully placed a lander on the comet’s surface.

During his talk, Prof. Rodrigo showed the history of the Rosetta spacecraft – a mission by the European Space Agency – and gave details on its ten year long journey through space to conquer the comet 67P/Tschurjumow-Gerasimenko. He thoroughly clarified why Rosetta’s lander Philea didn’t touch down at the estimated position and why it cannot be located for the moment. He further emphasized the importance of the mission and the results gained so far about the comet's composition. Investigating how the comet changes and evolves while approaching the Sun will help scientists learn more about the role of comets in the evolution of the Solar System. Following this talk, the audience, including both Chinese and foreigners, asked a number of questions and there were interesting exchanges on the significance of the mission for the future.

"Understanding Science - Beijing" is organized by the UK Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Institute of Physics (IoP) of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the International Space Science Institute-Beijing. Its goal is to make a broader public aware of today’s accomplishments in research through short scientific lectures in English (popularization talks) as well as to have an opportunity to talk with either EU or Chinese scientists currently carrying out research in China, in an informal, international and multidisciplinary environment.

About the speaker: Rafael Rodrigo is a Research Professor at the Centro de Astrobiología of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council) and the Executive Director of the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland. As a Co-Investigator he is participating among other projects in the Instruments “Osiris” and “Giada” of the ESA Mission Rosetta.

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