The Rosetta spacecraft is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface
A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.
Right now, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is hurtling toward Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft’s mission is to study the comet at close-range as it transforms from a quiet nugget of ice and rock, frozen solid by years spent in deep space, to a sun-warmed dynamo spewing jets of gas and dust into a magnificently evolving tail.
News flash: The metamorphosis has begun.
"Comet 67P is coming alive," says Claudia Alexander, project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta Project at JPL. "And it is even more active than I expected."
Launched in 2004, Rosetta has spent the past few years in hibernation as it chased the comet across the Solar System. In January of 2014, with its destination in sight, Rosetta woke up and turned on its cameras. At first, the comet looked like a dimensionless pinprick, inactive except for its quiet motion through space. Then, on May 4th a bright cloud appeared around the nucleus. (Read more)