Rosetta Spacecraft Orbits Comet

Humans have done something we’ve never done before.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has rendezvoused with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, making this the first time one of our crafts has entered the orbit of a comet. Rosetta launched more than ten years ago, and has spent the last decade catching up with the high-speed space rock. Now that it’s there, it will take up close measurements and give us new insight into what comets are made of.

Best of all, Rosetta will deploy the Philae lander this November, which will actually touch down on the surface of the comet. Numerous scientific instruments will take readings and scans of the surface, and there’s even a drill that will go down 23cm to collect samples for inspection by onboard instruments.

Everything the Rosetta and the Philae lander learn will give us a better understanding of comets, and teach us new things about how the Solar System was formed. It will also help us with similar missions in the future. NASA currently plans to send people to the surface of an asteroid in the next few decades.