Artist view of Rosetta
Rosetta is an ambitious spacecraft that has been designed to operate both close in to the Sun and farther out past Mars, where it will use layers of insulation to keep itself warm. As it passes Earth and the Moon this time it will add its sensor data to the search for water on the Moon, calibrating its science instruments as it goes. Then it's off into the loneliness of interplanetary space until it gets to Mars, where it will make one final gravity assist move to eventually match the speed of the comet. En route to the comet, the probe will flyby the asteroids 2867 Steins (September 2008) and 21 Lutetia (July 2010).
Equipped with a lander probe, Rosetta will be the first spacecraft ever to attempt landing on a comet, and will provide clues to the physical and chemical processes at work during the formation of planets, beginning 4.6 billion years ago.
Rosetta took this eerie picture of the Moon on November 8th as it approached.
The Moon from Rosetta
Wish her luck, Spacers!
Images courtesy of ESA