Rosetta spacecraft confabs with a comet | Science News

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Rosetta spacecraft confabs with a comet

After 10-year chase, ESA probe meets up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

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4:25pm, August 6, 2014

ALL CLEAR  As Rosetta closed in on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the features of its roughly 4-kilometer-long core became clearer. From a distance of 550 kilometers, Rosetta’s camera captured hints of cliffs, boulders and flatlands.

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The Rosetta spacecraft has caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

The spacecraft has been chasing the comet for 10 years, and on August 6, the European Space Agency (ESA) released detailed images and data showing that the probe had come within 100 kilometers of the space rock and is ready to enter into orbit around it. The meeting marks the closest a spacecraft has come to a comet without slamming into it and could reveal whether the space rocks ferried water and other ingredients for life to Earth billions of years ago.

The Rosetta team plans to map the core of the comet, sniff out the elements and molecules floating around it and harpoon a lander onto its surface. In about a year, the mission will give astronomers a ringside seat as the comet gets close to the sun, said Rosetta mission scientist

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