Rosetta Spacecraft Reaches Comet After 10-Year Chase

PHOTO: Comet, Aug. 3, 2014.
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The unmanned Rosetta spacecraft made history when it became the first probe to rendezvous with a comet as it journeyed around the sun.

After a 10-year chase spanning more than 4 billion miles across the solar system, the European Space Agency's spacecraft got up close and personal with the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

It's a crucial step toward researchers' goal of placing the robotic Philae lander on the surface of the comet later this year, something that has never been accomplished.

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The goal of the mission is to learn more about exploring the origins of comets, stars and planets.

PHOTO: Comet details.
ESA
PHOTO: Comet details.

The 67P comet has an uneven shape, which could mean the it is comprised of two formerly separate objects or has experienced heavy erosion.

PHOTO: Comet, Aug. 3, 2014.
ESA
PHOTO: Comet, Aug. 3, 2014.

Scientists will use the photos to determine the best place to land later this year. Once on the comet, the lander will shoot a harpoon into the porous surface, allowing it to fix itself to the comet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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