Filed Under:

Rosetta Spacecraft Arrives At Comet After 10-Year Chase

Play associated audio

After a decade of travel, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at a comet early this morning.

"Ten years we've been waiting in the car to get to scientific Disneyland," ESA's Mark McCaughrean said. "It's a wonderful moment."

The comet, called 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, orbits the sun once every six years or so. It's an unusual shape — some say it looks like a rubber duck, others like the spaceship "Serenity" from the sci-fi series Firefly.

Rosetta will now stay with the comet as it travels around the sun. The spacecraft's scientific instruments will be used to probe everything from the dust thrown up by the comet, to its internal structure.

In November, Rosetta will release a lander about the size of a small refrigerator. The lander will float down to the comet's surface and attempt to secure itself using harpoons. Harpooning a comet would be a first for humanity.

Ultimately, researchers say studying comet 67P should teach them more about the origins of the solar system. Comets are thought to be leftover raw ingredients from when our sun and the planets formed. They may even have brought the water in Earth's oceans — seeding the planet for the birth of life itself.

Here's a look at the long and circuitous route Rosetta took to arrive at its destination:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Introducing Capital Soundtrack, A New WAMU Music Project

What does Washington sound like? Capital Soundtrack, a new music project from WAMU 88.5, explores that question.
NPR

Evaporated Cane Juice? Puh-leeze. Just Call It Sugar, FDA Says

Companies cultivating a healthful image often list "evaporated cane juice" in their products' ingredients. But the FDA says it's really just sugar, and that's what food labels should call it.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - May 27, 2016

Congress votes to override DC's 2013 ballot initiative on budget autonomy. Virginia governor faces a federal investigation over international finance and lobbying rules. And DC, Maryland and Virginia move to create a Metro safety oversight panel.

NPR

With Shuttles Gone, Private Ventures Give Florida's Space Coast A Lift

Five years after NASA's shuttle program ended, a new Florida aerospace industry is beginning to take shape. Firms, from those making jets to tiny Internet satellites, are adding factories and jobs.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.