Still in a space exploration mood I thought I’d go check out what was currently going on out there. It was with a little surprise I found I’d missed Rosetta’s rendezvous with its target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on the 6th of this month. This makes Rosetta the first spacecraft to perform more than a flyby of a comet. It has been theorised that comets provided most of the water on Earth and may have even been the source of the precursors for life (or life itself). For this reason, comets are of huge scientific interest.
Not only will Rosetta map and analyse 67P/C-G during its year-long orbit, but in November there will be an attempt to dispatch a lander to the surface for a more detailed analysis. Given the complexity of the task this will be a huge feat of science and engineering.
To get to its destination Rosetta orbited the sun five times, made three flybys of Earth, and one of Mars to build up the required speed. To this point in it’s 10 years in space, the craft has traveled 6.4 billion KM, that’s almost four and a half times the distance of Jupiter to the Sun (space is kind’a big). Additionally Rosetta performed flybys of asteroids (21) Lutetia (a massive 100km rock) and (2867) Steins.