Rosetta Successfully Enters Orbit Around Comet 67P, Captures Stunning Images

Wednesday, 06 August 2014 - 9:29AM
NASA
Space Imagery
Philae/Rosetta
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 - 9:29AM
Rosetta Successfully Enters Orbit Around Comet 67P, Captures Stunning Images

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has finally arrived at its destination after an epic 10 year journey through space. In the early hours of Wednesday 6th August 2014, Rosetta successfully entered the orbit of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ending a lengthy chapter of its journey and beginning a new, incredibly complex one.

 

"After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here'," said ESA's Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain.

 

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko soars through our solar system at approximately 55,000 kph, and when Rosetta came within range, a 6.5 minute engine burn was required to get it close enough for orbit. Now it has arrived, the payoff has been swift, with some of the most detailed images of a comet ever taken making their way back to Earth.

 

Once Rosetta had successfully entered orbit around Comet 67P, it was able to capture this image of the object in all its glory.

(Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

 

At its widest point, Comet 67P measures approximately 4km in length and is currently around 550 million km away. This vast distance means that signals sent from the Rosetta spacecraft take an incredible 22 minutes to reach its control center here on Earth. Compare this with the 7 minutes of terror that was experienced by NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover team and you start to get a sense of the scale we are working with here. These distances pose a significant challenge to the spacecraft's operators. The final commands for Rosetta's approach had to be sent by Monday night in order to ensure they were uploaded to the spacecraft by Wednesday. 

 

"For me this is the sexiest, most fantastic mission there's ever been. It's ticking a number of boxes in terms of fascination, exploration, technology and science - predominantly science." said Project Scientist Dr. Matt Taylor. Indeed, when you see the level of detail contained within the images below, you start to see why the Scientific community is just so excited about this captivating mission.

 

 

 

(Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

 

With this latest phase of Rosetta's journey drawing to a close, the ESA team now face a busy few months as they prepare for arguably the trickiest and most important moment in this ambitious mission. In November, Rosetta will attempt to land its Philae spacecraft on the surface of Comet 67P. If Philae lands successfully, it will be able to retrieve and analyze samples of rock from the comet's icy surface, which could help scientists confirm that the building blocks for life were first brought Earth by a comet colliding with our planet's surface.

 

Science
Space
NASA
Space Imagery
Philae/Rosetta

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