Rosetta: The Remarkable Story of Europe's Comet Explorer.
(Springer-Praxis, December 2020)
By the mid-1980s, planetary exploration was dominated by the space superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Eager to find a niche research area in which it could make a groundbreaking contribution, the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to focus on the smaller members of the Solar System, the comets and asteroids that are left-over building blocks from the era of planetary formation, some 4.5 billion years ago.
ESA’s first sortie into in situ comet research was as a member
of an international effort to study Comet Halley, which was returning to the inner Solar System in 1986 after 76 years in the frigid depths of space.
Inspired by this once-in-a lifetime event, ESA, the Soviet Union and Japan sent a small armada of spacecraft to study the famous intruder from close range. The treasure trove of data that was returned by ESA’s Giotto and the other craft in the flotilla transformed the field of cometary research and provided new insights into the early stages of planetary formation.
Even before the success of this pioneering endeavour was confirmed, ESA and NASA scientists were coming together to discuss the next giant leap in the exploration of comets and asteroids. Their ambitious vision foresaw a landing on a comet’s nucleus, followed by retrieval of pristine material and its return to laboratories on Earth for detailed analysis.
The book recalls how the scientists’ dream encountered major obstacles, some of which proved to be insurmountable. However, even after the United States pulled out of the comet sample return endeavour, the ESA member states pressed ahead with their own remarkable comet chasing mission, which soon became known as Rosetta.
Despite further obstacles and setbacks, their foresight and endeavour resulted in a historic mission that has revolutionised our understanding of the billions of small, icy objects – the planetary building blocks - that populate the Solar System.
This book is the story of that monumental mission – the people, the hardware and the science that culminated in the unprecedented, close range exploration of a tiny chunk of ice and dust as it swept through space, hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth.
Specimen pages are available at https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030607197, where you may also order a copy.
"Peter Bond .... treats us to a blow-by-blow account of the mission, and its predecessors. Every instrument is described in detail and the results of each investigation are expertly summarized. The illustrations in the book are superb and I found the detailed referencing especially useful. Bond clearly enjoyed interviewing all the investigators and his biographical section was fascinating. I enjoyed this book greatly. Bond is clearly a comet fan and indicates clearly that not only was the one billion euro spent on Rosetta a bargain, but there is still a great deal to learn about these ephemeral bodies, and other comets need to be visited." (The Observatory)
"I really enjoyed reading Bond's very detailed account of the mission. There have been many books published on the cometary science arising from Rosetta, but this book is much more concerned with the operation and management of the mission, and it contains plenty of detail which would be difficult to find in a digestible form anywhere else...... where this book really shines is in the day-to-day descriptions of how a group of very clever people managed to fly a spacecraft to a comet and land on its surface. Bond has done an excellent job covering that aspect and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about more 'behind the scenes' detail." (Journal of the British Astronomical Society)
"As with all Praxis Springer books I have read on astronomy/spaceflight, this is a detailed and highly informative book, and will leave you with very little you don't know about this remarkable mission to comet 61P. Peter Bond has written a magisterial book that will surely stand the test of time." (Amazon.co.uk)