Rosetta mission lands Philae probe on the surface of a comet
It has taken 10 years for the ESA-led spacecraft to rendezvous with its target
Experts weigh in on why this is a monumental achievement for humanity
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From the realms of science fiction to science fact, the Rosetta mission reached its climax this week when when the mission’s scientists succeeded in landing a washing machine-sized probe named Philae on a moving comet after a 6.4 billion mile journey.
It has been a decade-long chase around the solar system for the spacecraft to catch up with its constantly moving target, Churyumov-Gerasimenko – better known as Comet 67P. For many who gaze dreamily at the stars above, this is one of the most exciting thing to happen in recent memory. But why should everyone else care?
To answer this question, CNN has brought together five experts in space science to explain why the Rosetta mission is a monumental achievement.
Matt Taylor, European Space Agency project scientist:
Rosetta is a big deal, enough to be the sexiest mission ever. Rosetta has rendezvoused, orbited and will soon deploy a lander to the comet surface. If that isn’t enough firsts, the orbiter will remain alongside the comet for over a year, watching it grow in activity as it approaches the Sun, getting to within 180 million km in summer next year, when the comet will be expelling hundreds of kilograms of material every second.
It’s got an awesome profile: the adventure of the decade-long journey necessary to capture its prey, flying past the Earth, Mars and two asteroids on the way. The years of preparation dating back to the days of the Giotto mission. The challenges of flying over 6 billion km to reach the comet, to bulls eye getting into orbit, even after a 31-month nap, around a body we knew next to nothing about at launch, other than it was going to constantly push us away more, the closer we got. The passion and dedication of the teams working for so long on Rosetta to make it work, to do what it was designed for – science.