Comet 67P is an irregularly shaped, 2.5-mile-wide amalgamation of ice, rock, and dust that is older than humanity. Finally, it is ready for its close-up.
After a decade-long, 4 billion-mile journey, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is closing in on the ancient space traveler. This month, Rosetta got its first close look at the comet, both 334 million miles from the sun.
Things will get really personal in November, when Rosetta will launch its 62-pound lander toward the comet. The lander will anchor itself on the surface, monitoring conditions while Rosetta tags along, recording the comet’s evolution from very cold ball to hot mess as it approaches the sun.
If all goes according to plan, the 10-year mission will provide humans with insight into how our solar system was formed 4.2 billion years ago.