Orbiting a planet is not that big a deal – moons do it all the time. And everyone you’ve ever known has orbited a sun. Feh. But a comet? The little snowballs have their own weird paths around the sun, and, on that scale, they’re really pretty tiny. But CNN is reporting that the ESA now has a ship flying alongside a comet for the first time in human history:
Rosetta fired its thrusters on its final approach to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, known as “Chury” for short, on Wednesday morning. Half an hour after the burn, scientists announced that the craft had entered into the orbit of the streaking comet.
“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the sun five times, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General, in a statement.
“Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start.”
ESA tweeted a photo of the comet after Rosetta’s maneuver. Chury and the space probe now lie some 250 million miles from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, according to ESA.
Read more on the misson at ESA’s Rosetta blog.