A European spacecraft named Rosetta has been blazing through the solar system for over a decade, and after traveling more than six-million kilometers, the probe has finally rendezvoused with it’s ultimate target: a comet named Comet 67P (or Churyumov-Gerasimenko).
Coming within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the comet, on August 6th, 2014, is a key moment in the European Space Agency’s ambitious project to analyze the meteor. The mission has been extremely expensive, at almost €1.3 billion euros, but the benefits gained from studying the comet will far outweigh the cost.
After circling the comet for several months, it will begin analyzing the surface in greater detail. In October, the probe will drop to an orbit of 30km, followed by a drop to 10km in November. At this time, the spacecraft will release a robotic-laboratory rover named Philae onto the surface of the asteroid and begin its in-depth exploration and investigation.
The rover will carry out experiments in cometary chemistry and study the surface in extreme detail for over six months; afterward, the rover will expire, and the Rosetta spacecraft will carry on its research on Comet 67P as it continues it’s journey towards the sun, which should be reached by August 2015.
This is a breakthrough in the history of space exploration – to be able to hit a target so small, with such precision, after a journey through the depths of space for over ten years, is a feat that mankind should celebrate. The mission was pulled of with great accuracy, and the ESA hopes the rest of the operation continues to unfold as well as it has so far.
To learn more, watch the video embedded below: