By the numbers: 12 years chasing a comet

September 30, 2016
Picture shows view into the control room at the European Space Agency sea in Darmstadt, Germany, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Rosetta will be impacted on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, marking the end of the twelve years lasting Rosetta mission. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

It's been 4,595 days since the Rosetta space probe was lifted into orbit on the first stage of its 12-year mission to chase down comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Here is a look at some of the other numbers, big and small, surrounding the mission:

___

SPACE ODYSSEY

As journeys go, this one was epic. According to the European Space Agency the Rosetta probe has travelled some 7,971,290,298 kilometers (4,953,359,791 miles) during its lifetime—almost 21,000 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

___

HIGH-SPEED CHASE

In order to catch up with a the Rosetta probe had to swing around Earth and Mars, using the planets' gravity to pick up speed. That's because 67P is flying through space at a breathtaking pace of up to 34 kilometers per second (21 miles per second).

___

DUCK SHAPE

As Rosetta got close to 67P scientists were surprised to see that the comet is made up of two 'lobes' connect by a thin neck, prompting some to liken its shape to that of a rubber duck. While big for a duck, it's still small by cosmic standards: just 4.1 kilometers (3 miles) across at the largest point. The comet weighs some 10 billion metric tons (11 billion tons), though it is steadily losing matter as it hurtles through space.

A model of orbiter Rosetta hangs from the ceiling in a conference room at the European Space Agency ESA in Darmstadt, Germany, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Rosetta will be impacted on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, marking the end of the twelve years lasting Rosetta mission. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

___

TIN CAN

Compared with the comet, Rosetta is tiny. The span of its solar wings is 32 meters (105 feet) from tip to tip. The probe itself measures just 2.8 x 2.1 x 2 meters. Philae is even smaller—just 1 cubic meter, or about the size of a washing machine.

___

SOLAR FLY-BY

Comet 67P follows an elliptical course that takes it from close to Jupiter's orbit—some 850 million kilometers (528 million miles) away from the sun—almost to Earth's orbit, about 186 million kilometers (115 million miles) from the sun, and back over the course of 6½ years.

The artist impression provided on the website of the European Space Agency ESA on Sept. 29, 2016 shows ESA's Rosetta cometary probe. The spacecraft will be crash landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Sept. 30, 2016. (J. Huart/ESA via AP)

___

VAST TREASURE

The instruments on board Rosetta and Philae have collected a wealth of data that scientists say will take many years to fully analyze. In total the probes sent 218.25 gigabytes of data home to Earth.

___

STAYING POWER

Scientist say that one of the main benefits of the Rosetta mission compared with previous missions—apart from the world's first landing on a comet—was the length of time that the probe spent in 67P's orbit. During its 786 days flying alongside the comet, Rosetta was able to observe its evolution across several 'seasons' as 67P flew toward and then away from the sun again.

A model of orbiter Rosetta hangs from the ceiling in a conference room at the European Space Agency ESA in Darmstadt, Germany, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Rosetta will be impacted on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, marking the end of the twelve years lasting Rosetta mission. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Picture shows view into the control room at the European Space Agency sea in Darmstadt, Germany, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Rosetta will be impacted on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, marking the end of the twelve years lasting Rosetta mission. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Explore further: A timeline of comet probe's 12-year space odyssey

Related Stories

A timeline of comet probe's 12-year space odyssey

September 30, 2016

The European Space Agency's comet-chasing probe Rosetta is performing a final maneuver Friday that will end its 12-year mission with a crash-landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Scientists bid farewell to Rosetta space probe before crash

September 29, 2016

Scientists began saying their final farewells to the Rosetta space probe Thursday, hours before its planned crash-landing on a comet, but said that data collected during the mission would provide discoveries for many years ...

Europe's Rosetta craft swoops for close look at comet

February 14, 2015

The European Space Agency has sent its Rosetta probe in for a close look at the comet it's been tracking for months, a swoop that scientists hope will provide them with detailed measurements and photos of its surface.

Rosetta spacecraft headed for comet suicide crash

September 30, 2016

Europe's pioneering spacecraft Rosetta headed for a suicide crash Friday with the comet it has stalked for two years, nearing the end of an audacious quest to unravel the Solar System's mysteries.

Rosetta space probe takes sharp, close-up images of comet

February 16, 2015

The European Space Agency says high-resolution images the Rosetta space probe took during a swoop close to a comet it's been tracking for months show boulders on the comet's surface as well as "stunning details of the contrasting ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

0 comments

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.