Incredible True-Life Science Fiction [VIDEO]
This is like something from a science fiction book, but it’s going on now somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
It’s a space probe launched by the European Space Agency that has finally caught up with a comet and will actually land a probe on it sometime in November. It took 10 years to finally pull alongside the comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and to begin orbiting it.
To gain the speed it needed to catch the comet, the Rosetta probe needed to circle the Earth three times and slingshot once around Mars to reach the necessary 55,000 mph. The mission also included a period of 31 months where radio systems were shut down to save power, so scientists had no idea if it was still working or if the radio system would come on again when they contacted it. The Rosetta probe will now spend the next four months studying the comet from about 60 miles away before the attempted landing.
As it approaches the sun, the comet – a big ice ball -- will begin to melt and develop a tail, and that’s what they’re really interested in studying.
The whole mission will provide some clues about where comets come from and maybe provide some clues about the origins of Earth and the rest of the solar system.