In an historic first, Europe’s Rosetta probe has commenced a powered orbit around a comet after a 10-year chase. The spacecraft fired its thrusters for six and a half minutes to finally catch up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Mission controllers had to wait an agonising 22 minutes to know that the manoeuvre had worked.
“We’re at the comet!” declared Sylvain Lodiot at the European Space Agency (Esa) operations centre in Germany. “It’s fantastic!” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of Esa. “After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,”
Launched on board an Ariane rocket in March 2004, Rosetta has taken a long route around our Solar System to catch up with comet 67P. Edited from Europe’s Rosetta probe goes into orbit around distant comet.