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European spacecraft reaches distant comet

Posted on Aug 06 2014 | IANS

London, Aug 6 : In the first probe to rendezvous with a comet, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft created history Wednesday when it reached a distant comet.

Rosetta's call home to confirm its arrival took 22 minutes to reach earth, travelling at the speed of light.

According to the ESA, the feat was achieved after over 10 years of travel covering 6.4 billion km by Rosetta on a road trip around the solar system.

"To have matched the speed and orbit of the comet is history in the making," Warwick Holmes, an Australian engineer who helped build Rosetta and was at ESA's operations control in Darmstadt, Germany, was quoted as saying in Sydney Morning Herald.

The distant comet is named 67P which is hurtling around the sun at up to 135,000 km per hour.

"The surface is very rough. There are these 100-metre-high cliffs," Holmes informed.

For next two months, the satellite will fly in a series of triangle shaped orbits to map the surface of the comet.

Rosetta will also conduct science experiments with its on-board instruments.

In November, Rosetta will lower a small lander Philae onto the surface of the comet, ESA added.

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