Comet 67P on Aug. 3, 2014

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDAView

 

After a decade in space and 4 billion miles, Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has made history: For the first time ever, a robotic probe from Earth is flying with a comet and will soon enter orbit.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, today (Aug. 6) to end a 10-year journey across the solar system. The spacecraft performed an engine burn that brought it about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the comet’s surface.

Comet 67P/C-G and Rosetta are now flying about 251 million miles (450 million kilometers) from Earth. Engineers on the ground had to program the probe to go through a series of complicated burns and maneuvers to make the spacecraft’s rendezvous with the comet a possibility. [Photos: Europe’s Rosetta Comet Mission in Pictures]

“This is the end of 10 years of interplanetary flight,” Rosetta Flight Director Andrea Accomazzo said during ESA’s live comet rendezvous webcast Wednesday.

Applause broke out in Rosetta’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, where a crowd of ESA dignitaries and officials had gathered to watch the historic event.

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