Ten years after its launch in 2004, the Rosetta robotic spacecraft is closing in on its target. The amazing image shown here was taken from about 300km from the comet that Rosetta will attempt to land on the surface of. Rosetta will make history as Earth’s first probe ever to rendezvous with and enter orbit around a comet.
The spacecraft used a series of 'slingshots' to build the speed it would eventually need to catch up with the comet. Sound complicated? Actually it's pretty simple! The video below shows how the spacecraft used the natural orbit of the solar system, particularly the gravitational pull of Earth and Mars, to build the momentum it needed. Check out the video to see how this works. This is seriously some crazy cool stuff that's going on!
After the 3rd Earth Gravity Assist, the spacecraft entered Deep Space Hibernation (why does that sound so nice?) for nearly 3 years before it was woken up to begin its approach to the comet. It's currently closing in and is expected to land on the surface within the coming weeks. Here's how the orbital approach happened: