European Space Agency’s scientists say about their satellite Rosetta as “the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever”. Well, they are right. And the ESA satellite has just made history by becoming the first satellite ever to orbit a comet.
In the past, most satellites have managed to fly by comets. But Rosetta, after a ten year space journey, has started orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was discovered back in 1969. But the story doesn’t end here. The satellite will analyze the comet’s structure and composition by utilizing 20 onboard instruments, while orbiting it for over a year. And they have also planned to drop a small lander, Philae, on to the comet for more studies.
The probe and the comet now lies around 405 million kilometers away from Earth, and it takes over 22 minutes for radio signals to travel between our planet and Rosetta. The maneuvers made by Rosetta to get closer to 67P were pre-programmed, and the satellite actually approached the comet alone. Fortunately, things worked out well as planned.