Close-up of first comet to give a ride around the sun

An ESA spacecraft nears its target, a comet the Philae lander will saddle up to for a ride around our nearest star.

comet67pjuly29.png
Meet the first comet to become an intra-galactic taxicab. ESA

This year will go down as the biggest yet for folks like me who hold an interest in both space exploration and rodeo. That's because the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is just about ready to rendezvous with an actual comet in deep space, where it will deploy a lander called Philae that will attach itself to the icy rock and ride it bareback around the sun.

It's amazing the lengths that can be required to find a lift when you don't have Uber in your town.

Rosetta's arrival at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is set to go down on August 6, but it's already been sending back images of Philae's future ride. The ESA today released the above picture of a butterfly-looking shape, captured on Tuesday from a distance of 1,210 miles.

By this time next week, Rosetta will be within only 60 miles of the comet, said the ESA, where it can begin mapping it in detail to start identifying possible landing sites. Once Philae lands and drills itself into the surface of the comet, Rosetta will accompany both on their swing past the sun.

While this is quite literally humanity's first rodeo of this sort, Rosetta still has the distinct advantage that this bronco likely doesn't buck. Keep checking back with Crave for updates on Rosetta and Philae's epic ride.

 

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