The European Space Agency has just released this stunning self-portrait of the Rosetta spacecraft, taken less than ten miles from the surface of Comet 67P/C-G, which is emitting streams of gas and dust into the depth of space.
Launched in March 2004, Rosetta was reactivated in January 2014 after a record 957 days in hibernation.
Composed of an orbiter and lander, Rosetta’s objectives since arriving at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko earlier this month have been to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail, prepare for landing a probe on the comet’s nucleus in November, and following the landing, track the comet’s changes as it sweeps past the sun.
Rosetta’s lander will obtain the first images taken from a comet’s surface and will provide comprehensive analysis of the comet’s possible primordial composition by drilling into the surface.
Rosetta also will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun’s radiation.
Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.