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Rosetta reaches Comet

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The European Rosetta spacecraft has caught up with the comet-67 on Wednesday, after a decade-long space mission that scientists hope will answer the secrets of the solar system.

The ESA Twitter account showed a photo of the space craft’s approach shortly after 5:30 a.m. ET.

The mission goal is to orbit 67P at about 100 kilometers and observe the comet as it hurtles toward the sun. In November if all goes well, Rosetta will drop the first ever lander onto a comet.

“We know what the comet’s shape is. But we haven’t really measured its gravity, we don’t know yet where the centre of mass is,” Rosetta Flight Director Andrea Accomazzo told Reuters.

Earlier this year, Rosetta took pictures showing the comet is not shaped as expected. It is comprised of two segments connected by a neck, giving it an asymmetrical shape that has been compared to a duck.

Data collected from lander should show the scientists an astronomical time capsule that has been preserved for millions of years.

Rosetta has traveled for 10 years, five months and four days to reach the comet; approximately 3-by-5 km rock discovered in 1969. The spacecraft first circled the sun on a ever widening spiral course, swinging past the Earth and Mars to gain speed and adjust its trajectory.

This mission has several historical firsts, such as the first time a spacecraft orbits a comet rather than a fly-by pictures, and also the first time a probe has landed on a comet.

The comet is currently between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. As it approaches the inner Solar System at almost 55,000 km per hour, the comets path will be more difficult to predict.

“We’re going to have a ringside seat to see, for the first time, a comet turn into a comet, to develop its tail and explain what for centuries mankind has been puzzled by,” said David Southwood.

Launched from Earth on March 2, 2004, it has travelled more than six billion kilometres. The entire mission has an estimated cost of 1.3 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

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Rosetta reaches Comet

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