article image

Once upon a time ... the further adventures of Rosetta and Philae

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Mar 10, 2015, 17:18 UTC

Sen—The European Space Agency (ESA) have released the latest in an animated video series chronicling the adventures of their Rosetta spacecraft, the Philae lander and their encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. 

The animations have charmed all who view them and helped bring the excitement of the comet mission alive for the public by getting them to identify with the robotic probes.

Dr Emily Baldwin, Space Science Editor, based at European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands, is part of the science communications team working to promote ESA activities.

Emily told Sen: "The “Once upon a time” videos were conceived in the latter part of 2013 by our science communication group (here at ESTEC) as part of the “Wake up, Rosetta” campaign, when we were exploring different ways to engage various audiences with the Rosetta mission and the milestones that lay ahead.

"For that particular video we were thinking along the lines of telling a fairy tale like Sleeping Beauty, with the younger audience in mind. The graphics designers (Design&Data) did a great job of turning our script into an adorable cartoon, and so the characters were born!"

Emily added: "The style and the story-telling nature leant itself to other episodes following the wake-up, such as the journey to Comet 67P, preparing for landing, and now the follow-up to the landing itself. They are a great way to share important messages about why we're doing science at a comet, but in a light-hearted way, and we know that they appeal to a very wide audience, with fans of a range of ages and job titles!"

The latest video tells the tale of brave Philae's landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As Rosetta bid her lander farewell and sent him to the comet's surface, the whole world looked on, anxious to see what would happen next... 

Once upon a time... #cometlanding. Credit: European Space Agency, ESA 

Rosetta and Philae also took to Twitter to share their adventures. At the time of Philae's landing the two engaged in conversation on Twitter, ending with Philae falling asleep on the comet as the last of the lander's power was drained. Emily took the principal role of Rosetta!

Emily told Sen: "The visualisation of the cartoon characters also helped to develop the characters and personalities of the first-person Twitter accounts @ESA_Rosetta (managed by myself and with support from my communications colleagues) and @philae2014 (managed by colleagues at DLR and the Lander Control Centre).

"Having the accounts in first-person helps to engage with our audiences, with Rosetta and Philae having conversations with each other on the long journey and about how they felt as they got ready for comet landing—just as two friends would be chatting as they got ready for a big adventure!" 

Although Philae is currently sleeping it is hoped that, as the comet gets closer to the Sun, the landing site will become better illuminated. It's possible that Philae could receive enough sunlight to awake from hibernation sometime this month and be able to communicate with Rosetta again by May or June. 

Emily concluded, "Because the lander is currently in hibernation @philae2014 is sleeping, and although @ESA_Rosetta is really busy doing science at the comet, I know she’s hoping her best friend @philae2014 will wake up so that she can fill him in on what he’s missed, and maybe they will see in perihelion together! Stay tuned to find out!"