'Hello, Comet!': jubilation as Rosetta probe becomes first to orbit around comet
“Today’s achievement is a result of a huge international endeavour spanning several decades,” says ESA's Alvaro Giménez
Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has successfully entered into a powered orbit around the comet 67P in what is a historic end to a 10-year chase.
Mission controllers at the European Space Agency (ESA) waited 22 minutes for radio signals from Rosetta to travel the 550 million kilometres back to Earth, confirming that their pre-programmed manoeuvres had gone as planned.
“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’,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.
The probe is now orbiting the comet in a triangular trajectory at roughly walking speed and will hold this pattern for 15 months, analysing information about 67P's gravity field while it prepares for the launch of Philae – a 100kg lander that will grapple onto the comet with explosive harpoons.
This launch will be the next major challenge for the Rosetta team – a task that will be all the trickier for the unusual ‘rubber duck’ shape of comet 67P (above).
Photos of the icy celestial body have shown that it seems to be made from two fused parts and is approximately 3.5km by 4km in area. Its gravity is so weak that Rosetta will need to adjust its orbit every couple of days using thrusters to stay alongside.
“Arriving at the comet is really only just the beginning of an even bigger adventure," said Sylvain Lodiot, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft operations manager.
"[There are] greater challenges still to come as we learn how to operate in this unchartered environment, start to orbit and, eventually, land."
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Man dies instantly after shooting firework from top of his head
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
Father faces deportation to Thailand after 27 years in Britain for two 'stupid crimes'
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...
£12500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A subscriptions and marketing a...
£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...