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Rosetta Spacecraft Reaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

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European spacecraft Rosetta became the first ever to catch up with a comet on Wednesday, a landmark stage in a decade-long space mission that scientists hope will help unlock some of the secrets of the solar system.

[VIEW VIDEO HERE](http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/World/ID/2483418147/)

The goal of the mission is to orbit 67P at a distance of about 100 kilometers and observe the comet as it hurtles toward the sun. If all goes according to plan, Rosetta will drop the first ever lander onto a comet in November.

“We know what the comet’s shape is. But we haven’t really measured its gravity, we don’t know yet where the center of mass is,” Rosetta Flight Director Andrea Accomazzo told Reuters ahead of the rendezvous.

‘We’re going to have a ringside seat to see, for the first time, a comet turn into a comet, to develop its tail and explain what for centuries mankind has been puzzled by.’ – David Southwood, retired Rosetta team member

Scientists hope data the probe gathers on the surface of the comet will allow them to peek into a kind of astronomical time capsule that has preserved for millions of years clues about what the world looked like when our solar system was born.

It has taken Rosetta 10 years, five months and four days to reach the comet, a roughly 3-by-5 km rock discovered in 1969. On its way, the spacecraft circled the sun on a widening spiral course, swinging past Earth and Mars to pick up speed and adjust its trajectory.

Comet to grow active

“We’re going to have a ringside seat to see, for the first time, a comet turn into a comet, to develop its tail and explain what for centuries mankind has been puzzled by,” said David Southwood, who oversaw the scientific part of the mission until his recent retirement, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Rosetta blasted off from Earth on March 2, 2004. Since then, it has travelled more than six billion kilometres.The mission will have an estimated cost of 1.3 billion euros (.9 billion).

[SOURCE](http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/rosetta-spacecraft-reaches-comet-67p-churyumov-gerasimenko-1.2728228)

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“Rosetta Spacecraft Reaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko”