I’ve posted on the European Space Agency probe Rosetta before. It’s on a 10-year mission to rendezvous with and explore the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Since arriving at the comet in August, Rosetta has been sending back all sorts of dramatic photographs like the one above that have scientists marveling over the diverse assortment of geological features on the 6.5 kilometre wide oblong body. Those features include boulders, craters and sand dunes.
Rosetta has already made several discoveries, including that the comet is a contact binary composed of two smaller chunks. The probe has also detected water vapour escaping from the comet’s surface. This is occurring because the comet is plummeting toward the Sun and gradually heating up. It will reach its closest approach with the Sun in August 2015, then begin a long journey back to the outer reaches of the solar system.
As part of its survey mission, Rosetta has identified a spot on the comet where the robotic probe Philae will attempt to land on Nov. 12. If the probe is successful in harpooning itself to the comet, it will mark the first controlled touchdown on a comet. Once anchored, Philae will conduct more detailed study of the comet’s mineral composition and other physical properties.
You can read more on the mission in this Daily Mail report.