Comet-chasing probe closes in on target

July 2, 2014
This artist's impression shows the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale. Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

A comet-chasing spacecraft on a mission to land on a fizzing ball of ice and dust later this year has begun a crucial slow-down maneuver to avoid flying past its target.

The European Space Agency says the Rosetta probe is firing its to cut by almost two thirds the speed with which it's hurtling toward comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The agency says Wednesday's burn is the first of four before Rosetta comes within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the comet in early August, beyond the orbit of Mars. The final rendezvous requires two more precision maneuvers.

The probe, launched a decade ago, will spend time observing 67P before dropping a onto its icy surface in November.

The comet is about four kilometers long and orbits the Sun every six-and-a-half years.

Explore further: Europe aims for first comet landing Nov. 11 (Update 2)

Related Stories

Rosetta сomet-chasing probe wakes up, signals Earth

January 20, 2014

Waking up after almost three years of hibernation, a comet-chasing spacecraft sent its first signal back to Earth on Monday, prompting cheers from scientists who hope to use it to land the first space lander onto a comet.

Image: Rosetta's comet

January 21, 2014

( —ESA's Rosetta spacecraft woke up 20 January, after 31 months in deep space hibernation, to catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Rosetta's comet wakes up

March 10, 2014

( —It's back! After comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko had disappeared behind the Sun and out of the Earth's view last year in October, the target comet of ESA's Rosetta mission can now be seen again. In the most ...

Rosetta comet comes alive

June 4, 2014

A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.

Recommended for you

Getting into the flow on the International Space Station

December 1, 2015

Think about underground water and gas as they filter through porous materials like soil and rock beds. On Earth, gravity forces water and gas to separate as they flow through the ground, cleaning the water and storing it ...

Exiled exoplanet likely kicked out of star's neighborhood

December 1, 2015

A planet discovered last year sitting at an unusually large distance from its star - 16 times farther than Pluto is from the sun - may have been kicked out of its birthplace close to the star in a process similar to what ...

Cassini mission provides insight into Saturn

December 1, 2015

Scientists have found the first direct evidence for explosive releases of energy in Saturn's magnetic bubble using data from the Cassini spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian ...

Timing a sextuple quasar

December 1, 2015

Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores around which vast amounts of energy are being radiated. Indeed, so much light is emitted that the nucleus of a quasar is much brighter than the rest of the entire ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.