Spacecraft is close to a comet – level 3

13-08-2014 07:00

After a decade-long mission, a European spacecraft has arrived at a comet more than 250 million miles away.

The Rosetta spacecraft launched in March 2004 and since then has traveled more than 4 billion miles across the asteroid belt and more than five times the Earth’s distance from the Sun.

And now, as the 10-year journey across the solar system comes to an end, Rosetta has entered orbit around the comet.

“Well, today’s the end a 10-year journey through the solar system. We’ve been bouncing around between the Earth and Mars to try to get our orbit right to get out to this completely insane object which we now know is out there, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the wildest comet, I think, anybody’s ever seen. So, today we arrive. We’re there 100 kilometres away. If you like, today is the beginning of the real science mission because now we can start actually measuring things, really analysing this comet, finding out what its history is, where it’s been in the solar system, what it’s made of. Can we open up this treasure chest and find out some answers to the birth of the solar system, the origin of water on the planet and even origin of life itself?”

Scientists at the European Space Agency are now on a tight schedule to learn enough about the comet using data from Rosetta to safely land the spacecraft’s probe on it in November.

Difficult words: decade (ten years), asteroid belt (a giant circle of rocks in our solar system), orbit (to fly in circles around something), insane (very exciting), wildest (very exciting), treasure chest (the comet can give many interesting facts and answers), origin (where something or someone came from), probe (unmanned spacecraft which explores).


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