After 10 Years And 4 Billion Miles, Rosetta Space Probe Reaches Comet 67P
By: Erin Ruberry
"We're in orbit!"
With those words, the European Space Agency confirmed that Rosetta had reached its destination after a 10-year, four-billion-mile journey.
“Hello, Comet!” pic.twitter.com/mvFIxGWC8y— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) August 6, 2014
The Rosetta space probe arrived at comet 67P at 09:02:29 UTC Wednesday morning, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.
"After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here,'" ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.
"Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start."
Now that Rosetta is in orbit, it could help scientists on Earth collect vital information about the source of life itself:
"Comets are believed by astrophysicists to be ancient ice and dust left from the building of the Solar System around 4.6 billion years ago. This cosmic rubble is the oldest, least touched material in our stellar neighborhood.
Understanding its chemical ID and physical composition will give insights into how the planets coalesced after the Sun flared into light, it is hoped.
It could also determine the fate of a theory called "pan-spermia," which suggests comets, by smashing into the infant Earth, sowed our home with water and precious organic molecules, providing us with a kickstart for life."
On November 11, 2014, Rosetta's Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P.