Way back in 2004, the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft called Rosetta on a mission to enter orbit around a comet and send a lander to its surface. The comet is called 67P/CG, and after ten years in transit, Rosetta has finally reached the comet and is now preparing to enter orbit.
Rosetta reached its destination today and has been placed into a series of triangular paths near the comet to gather data. Gradually, these paths will encircle the comet, and the spacecraft will enter a true orbit around the comet, as shown in the video below:
The lander will be sent to the surface of the comet in November. That landing will involve firing a harpoon at the surface of the comet used to send the lander down. The goal of the mission is to learn more about comets and the origins of the solar system.
It’s very cool that despite taking a decade to get to the destination, the trip has gone off without a hitch so far, and has already resulted in some impressive close-up photography, like the image here: