After a 10-year, 4-billion-mile journey through deep space, a European probe will finally arrive at its comet destination this week.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday (Aug. 6). If all goes according to plan, Rosetta will on that day become the first probe ever to orbit a comet — and, in November, the first to drop a lander onto the surface of one of these icy wanderers.
“For the first time, we will rendezvous with a comet, for the first time we will escort a comet as it passes through its closet approach to the sun and — the cherry on the top — for the first time, we will deploy a lander,” Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor told Space.com via email. “The rendezvous is therefore a key milestone in the mission.” Via European Spacecraft to Attempt Historic Comet Rendezvous This Week.